CG News

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NEWS

This page is for general Casa Grande city government and other city reporting by Harold Kitching, continuing what he did at the Casa Grande Dispatch for 11 years before he resigned.


(Older items are in ARCHIVES)


SR 87 roadwork north of Picacho scheduled

(Posted Oct. 30, 2014)


Pinal County issued this press release today:


State Route 87 in Pinal County will be reduced to one lane north of Picacho (mileposts 126-131) beginning Monday, Nov. 3, through the end of the month, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. daily for pavement improvement, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. 

The work will be done one mile at a time beginning on southbound SR 87 and then continue onto northbound SR 87. 

One lane will remain open at all times.

ADOT crews will direct traffic through the area.

Drivers should expect delays of up to 10 minutes. 

The speed limit will be reduced. Please use caution while driving in the work zone.

For more information, please call Paki Rico at 520-388-4233, or email prico@azdot.gov.

 

Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Oct. 20, 2014)


Upgrading of the city's computer network was approved during Monday night's 43-minute City Council meeting.

The computer requests are to spend $120,824 for a storage network to replace one that failed in February, shutting down the city's network. That was given initial approval. A companion spending request for $36,382 is to purchase network switches for the new equipment. That was approved.

Other agenda items include:

• Gave initial approval to spending $118,001 for a used watering system for dust control at the city landfill rather than $835,000 for a new replacement.

• Approved spending $48,194 for a 4,000-gallon water tank system to be used by the Streets Division.


September jobless rate in Casa Grande at 7.1%

(Posted Oct. 17, 2014)


Unemployment during September dropped about half a percent in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.1 percent during September, down from 7.6 during August. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,502 people out of work during September, down from 1,595 for August. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.1 percent jobless rate (693 people out of work) for September 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an September rate of 7.1 percent jobless (10,102 without work), down from 7.7 (10,812) during August. The September 2007 rate was 4.4.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.8 percent jobless rate for September (318 unemployed), down from 7.3 percent (340) during August. The September 2007 rate was 8.

Eloy

11.1 rate for September (441 jobless), down from 11.9 (427) during August. The September 2007 rate was 6.6.

Florence

7.5 rate for September (238 jobless), down from 8.1 during August (253). The September 2007 rate was 4.4.

Maricopa city

6.3 rate for September (1,271 jobless), down from 7 during August (1,390). The September 2007 rate was 4.9.


Favorable vote for more PhoenixMart changes

(Posted Oct. 16, 2014)


Scroll down on page for earlier background story, maps and city staff report on the request.


A favorable recommendation on a request by PhoenixMart to jettison most of its earlier proposed residential area was sent to the City Council by the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting.

The favorable vote was a recommendation only; the City Council has final say.

The meeting was the second to discuss the request because state law requires that requests for major General Plan amendments, allowed once a year, must be held on two separate dates and in separate locations.

When AZ Sourcing announced the PhoenixMart project more than three years ago, the developers said there would be a 1.6-million-square-foot international products showcase building as the main feature. Others parts of the 500-plus-acre project north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads were be a hotel and residential subdivision, which the developers said would help the thousands of workers find homes.

The developers now want to turn most of that residential area into a commerce and light industry section. Requests they are receiving indicates that that is what potential tenants want to see, they said. They also said that part of the original residential area has a pipeline under it, making development of homes a problem.

The favorable recommendation was approved 6-1, with commission member Joel Braunstein opposed.

"As I said at the last meeting, this has been almost two years ongoing and there's nothing been going on," he told other members. 

"This is part of Phase 3, Phase 4. Who knows what the economy, who knows what AZ Sourcing is going to want to do a few years from now? 

"I feel that this is not an integral part of starting Phase 1 and Phase 2. And is there going to be another request somewhere down the road? I would like to see them show what they're going to do before they ask us for all kinds of promises down the road.

"For that reason, I'm going to vote against it."

Braunstein said it's a situation of "Can we do this, can we do that? It's going from a planned business/residential project to business. If it was going to turn out to be a business park, why didn't you stick it on the south side of town (in one of the business/industrial parks)? We used this side of town because it was going to be residential and the Fire Department and the schools, the whole thing. 

"Now it's not turning out what we were originally presented with, that we agreed at that time with what they were asking for. And I think it stinks."

Commission Vice Chairman Mike Henderson sees it differently.

"I think the land has changed, the use," he said. "At the time that that was designed there was an anticipation that they were going to have a much larger residential market than we do and higher-density residential was going to be more appropriate than it turns out, maybe, to be.

"We only have one shot at this each year, so in order to allow them to plan what they want to plan for commercial activities, if we're going to do it we have to do it now. I don't think we commit ourselves to anything. I think we make it possible for them to proceed with their own plans, and I'd like to support it."

Member Ruth Lynch said, "I believe there has been a lot of work for infrastructure and preparing the site. This is a huge undertaking and I didn't expect to see it built overnight.

I just think there are many things going on that the public, me included, has not seen. But that doesn't mean that things are not being accomplished."

Braunstein answered that, "The delay of their request is not going to affect at all (the main building). We're not saying that the mart itself cannot be built. We're all waiting for the mart to be built. We're talking about something they may want to do three, four years down the road. Infrastructure is not even out there yet. It's not even in their plans, because they're asking us tonight for permission to start planning their infrastructure out there.

"Just like Mr. Henderson said, it's changing.We don't know what's going on. We don't know what's going to go on in three or four years. I don't see a reason to change it right now. Consider it in the future when the present is closer."

Regarding the 1.6-million-square-foot main showcase building, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the commission that the final development plan/major site plan for the structure is scheduled for the Nov. 6 meeting.


70-foot cellphone tower on hold for a month

(Posted Oct. 14, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/boa/



A 70-foot-tall cellphone communications tower in a storage facility on Colorado Street south of Florence Boulevard is on hold until the next Board of Adjustment meeting.

The request was discussed Tuesday night, with T-Mobile willing to make changes on the site to conform with city requests. Those changes will require that a new variance application be submitted by T-Mobile and considered by the board at its November meeting.

T-Mobile had requested two setback variances for the tower in the Securlock mini-storage area at 517 N. Colorado St., but city planners recommended only the first variance, with the company to work with the city about the second.

The tower would be disguised as a palm tree. Associated equipment would be in a storage unit.

The first variance request was to allow the tower to be 67.6 feet from the west property line, where a 70-foot setback is required. The city staff recommended approval of that request.

The second request was for the south property line setback to be 47.6 feet, where 70 feet is also required.

According to the staff report, "The west setback variance (2.5 feet) has minimal impact on the adjacent residential property. However, the south variance (22.5 feet) has a greater impact

on the property to the south, which is vacant but is zoned for future residential. 

"City staff does not find justification for this variance request as it will have a negative impact on the adjacent residential property to the south in regards to the bulk and scale of the proposed tower and a direct visual impact. Staff would suggest the applicant move the tower further north within the site to meet the south setback."

The T-Mobile representative told the board that the company had met with the corporate parent of Securlock and had worked out moving the tower to the northwest corner where a building had the same configuration as the south location originally requested.

In other action Tuesday night, the board:

• Approved a request from Glenn Jones Auto for a variance to allow another sign.

• Approved a request from Arizona Water Co. for setback variances to allow new water treatment equipment in its facility at 1300 N. Henness Road.


Abandoned shopping carts efforts promised

(Posted Oct. 10, 2014)


Attempts will be made to facilitate meetings among city departments to see what, if anything, can be done about abandoned shopping carts littering areas of town, the Police Advisory Board was told Thursday night.

Board member Roger Vanderpool, who had asked that the item be put on the agenda for discussion, told Police Chief Johnny Cervantes that he is aware that the situation may not be within the purview of the Police Department or Code Enforcement, "but there are a lot of shopping carts over the last several months scattered around down.

"It kind of goes with that broken window thing, if you don't repair the window pretty soon everything else starts falling apart.

"And I know often, unfortunately, it is an economic-driven issue, also, because people using the shopping carts are normally folks that don't have other means of moving their groceries or personal property around."

Vanderpool said that at one time someone went around picking up carts, perhaps paid by some of the stores, but he does not see that very often any more

"The shopping carts have got to cost a pretty good penny," said. "You'd think that the stores would want them back."

Vanderpool said the problem will probably grow, "considering that we now are coming into the winter months everywhere else and our homeless population does grow this time of the year just because of our climate."

Cervantes responded that, "I appreciate your concern. The last thing we want to do is have a blight issue build inside our community. We can facilitate, coordinate with Planning or whoever else you coordinate with to try to look around and see if we can get those shopping carts picked up. But I agree with your 100 percent and I appreciate you bringing it forward."

Cervantes asked if there is any specific area of the city where Vanderpool is seeing the abandoned carts.

Vanderpool replied, "Obviously as you get within a half mile or three quarters of a mile of  Wal-Mart, Food City area. In the neighborhoods, really."

He said that if there is a person or company that picks up the carts, "it would probably be really nice if we could publicize a (phone) number so if someone sees a shopping cart they could call that individual to go pick that one up. Because, again, it's got to be also an economic loss for the stores."

Cervantes said he was not aware of any city ordinance covering abandoned carts.

"I'm not wanting to put any burden on local business," Vanderpool said, "but if a local business is called and maybe don't respond, PD calls them and they don't respond or code enforcement calls them and they don't respond, OK, maybe Public Works goes out and picks it up, sort of like the alarms ordinance, after two or three they're sent a bill for the services."

Cervantes replied, "Obviously, it is a concern and we'll certainly try to coordinate with the appropriate parties to try to rectify this issue, even if we have to facilitate getting with the major grocery stores and see if they have a service that they're actually utilizing. I'm not sure if they're (all) utilizing a service or if it's just specific to one grocery chain."

Board member Rodolfo Calvillo said, "I think if there was contact made with the big boxes and the larger stores and checked with their risk management and loss prevention it could be a situation where if they don't have it in place maybe collectively they could. If not, maybe it's something that could be brought to the attention of the chamber of commerce where they in turn could tell their customers.

"What I have seen, and as late as of this weekend, if you see one, often times there's two side by side, which kind of gives you the impression whomever is bringing it from the store, he or she is not taking it back. The next time he or she goes, grabs the second one."

Calvillo said that he has seen stores where the wheels of the cart would electronically lock the wheels when the edge of the property was reached, "but I haven't seen it here in Casa Grande."

Board chairman Mike McBride said one problem area is around an extended stay hotel on Florence Boulevard.

"They walk from Wal-Mart, push their cart down there since we put the sidewalk in," he said. "It used to be dirt and you couldn't push through the dirt. Now they've got a nice, clean sidewalk to push it and they just pile up next to that place."

Board member Joshua Carstens said that several years ago when his wife worked at a Target operation, "it was like a $20 gift card they got for every cart they brought back, as an employee. It was like an incentive to their employees to help them get their carts back.  I don't know if they do that anymore."

Vanderpool said he wonders if the stores could collectively do something like that for a nonprofit organization in town that would collect the carts.

"That might be a win-win for everyone," he said. "Win-win for a nonprofit, win-win for the community and the store if they're willing to chip in something to get their cart back."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Oct. 6, 2014)


You'll find the agenda items and associated staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The City Council took these actions Monday night:

• After questions about whether users were fully aware of legal details and concerns that there is no long range plan to cover future failures or problems, tabled consideration of an ordinance assessing users for repairs to the Evergreen Irrigation District. The assessment would be $1,019.19 per user, going toward paying half of the $52,997.95 cost of the repairs to the well and other equipment after a pump failure earlier this year. (Scroll down page for earlier background story.)

• Approved a resolution opposing legalization of non-medical, or recreational, marijuana in Arizona. (See earlier background story, with link to resolution, under COMMUNITY.)

Watch the discussion HERE

• Gave initial approval to a bid of $896,038 for slurry seal for street resurfacing.

• Gave initial approval to a bid of $327,919 for asphalt rubber chip seal.

• Approved purchase of 624 96-gallon trash containers for $35,126.

• Gave initial approval to spending $62,901 for a loader for the Parks Division.

• Approved a final plat for a convenience store north of Florence Boulevard at Camino Mercado.

• Gave initial approval to a zone change to allow Arizona Water Co. to have a water tank, arsenic treatment vessels and other equipment at 1300 N. Henness Road.


PhoenixMart project update: Lesser and later

 The original proposal for the PhoenixMart project showed residential at the north and  northwest areas (left map). Developers now want to change the cross hatched yellow  part at left to commerce and business (right map)

(Posted Oct. 5, 2014)


You'll find the staff report with supporting information HERE



Lesser and later was the PhoenixMart message given to the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting (Oct. 2).

When the project was announced in 2011, developers said there would be a 1.7-million-square-foot international products showcase building as the main feature. Others parts of the 500-plus-acre project north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads were be a hotel and residential subdivision, which the developers, AZ Sourcing, said would help the thousands of workers find homes.

The project would open in late 2012 or early 2013, it was announced.

That opening date has often been pushed back, with developers citing difficulties in getting work permits for Chinese merchants who would occupy parts of the building and the lengthy process of obtaining required city permits.

That opening date is now "late 2015, early 2016," the commission was told.

The residential part of the project is also being scuttled in favor of other business type facilities.

Thursday's commission hearing was on a request by AZ Sourcing for a major General Plan amendment to changing 111 acres from neighborhoods designation (which allows residential)  to commerce and business. Such requests require two hearings, with the final one on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the main library on Drylake Street.

The first question came from commission member Mike Henderson.

"Going back to the original presentations that were made by AZ Sourcing regarding PhoenixMart, there was a very substantial portion of the development that was quite high-density residential," he said. "Is this indicating a general trend away from putting the residential component in the whole PhoenixMart project?"

Senior City Planner Leila Demaree said the next step would be for AZ Sourcing to come back to the commission and the City Council for approval to amend the planned area development "to change the land use within that commerce and business to suit their needs.  So basically the area covered from neighborhood to commerce and business will be changed when they come back for the PAD amendment."

Henderson then asked, "And we will see a reduced emphasis on the housing product, as opposed to the commercial and perhaps industrial activity?"

That is correct, Demaree replied.

Henderson then asked Jeremy Schoenfelder of AZ Sourcing if all of the housing would go away.

Not all of it, Schoenfelder replied.

Referring to a plat map (shown above), he said that difficulties crossing a pipeline on the northwest corner of the project was one reason for the requested land use change.

"Through our land planning we sort of discovered it after our initial high level PAD," Schoenfelder said. "We knew it was there but we didn't realize the difficulty to be able to cross it from the development perspective.

"So the northwest corner sort of became a separate development in and of itself … partially where some of our utilities will be, our water campus will be there."

AZ Sourcing is also following what Schoenfelder said is interest in light office areas and other such development on the property.

"We're taking a look at the area in general and frankly feel that there's quite a bit of subdivisions that are planned (elsewhere) that are residential and things and we think that there will be plenty of supply for that and we'll let them do what they do well. We'll just really cater to the demand we're seeing within our activity."

Henderson asked if that means building out that entire area as a general business environment.

Schoenfelder replied that, "There's some activity that we're hearing from people specifically because of the PhoenixMart project, but in general I think that there's more activity here that will just develop in the true business, commerce on the whole site."

The main question still asked in the community was repeated by commission member Joel Braunstein: "We've been talking about this for two years-plus," he said. "When are you going to start?"

Schoenfelder said AZ Sourcing continues to have meetings with the city and with utilities providers.

"It's continuing to move forward," he said. 

"You'll see through various permits that we're going to be submitting that we're going to be doing multiple at-risk grading submissions in order to keep the timeline that we want to hit.

"But the goal is that we'll have heavy equipment out there in November, and that looks like it's fairly feasible right now based on last schedule, and then we would continue fairly substantial activity until the end."

Schoenfelder said there are still meetings about the main building, but the date now is late 2015, early 2016.

"So, every time you come before us it's being pushed back a little bit," Braunstein said.

Schoenfelder said "the anchor project is still the (huge) PhoenixMart building that you hear about, with first construction on that phase."

AZ Sourcing is talking with other developers and subdevelopers about the proposed hotel and other components, he said, but, "there are also some buildings that we're planning on developing ourselves, or at least in partnership with others. So it'll actually be a mix of it."


Evergreen Irrigation cost on council agenda

(Posted Oct. 3, 2014)


You'll find the agenda item and associated staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


A locator map is HERE


A users address list is HERE


A proposal that Evergreen Irrigation District users pay 50 percent of the $52,997.95 that it cost repair the electrical, pump and well casing components to keep the system in operation is on the agenda when the City Council meets Monday.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

When Evergreen was platted in 1928 north and east of City Hall, one of the deed restrictions said, "All lot owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises; and all lots shall be deemed to be of equal size in ascertaining the pro rata share."

In 1986, the city passed an ordinance making that official, setting out the assessments and how they would be paid.

"Assessments are designed to recover large costs to the district which occur on a irregular or unpredictable schedule," that ordinance says. "Examples of such costs are repair and replacement of the pump and vehicle used in providing the service. Assessments shall be divided equally among all users of the service."

When the main pump failed earlier this year, leaving users without irrigation water, the city paid a contractor for the repairs.

The question: Should users cover all or part of the cost.

Over the years, the number of users has shrunk to 26, a document shows.

According to the staff report for the agenda item, "Once the water delivery service was restored, the current Evergreen Irrigation customers were invited to a neighborhood meeting  to discuss the water delivery schedule, as well as the issue of reimbursement. Those in attendance unanimously suggested and agreed that a 50 percent cost sharing program with the city was a fair and reasonable resolution. The group in attendance also requested that the City allow a one-year time frame for the users to pay the agreed upon repair balances."

That would be $1,019.19 per user.

There is also an hourly charge for the water coming onto the properties for deep irrigation.

"Parks maintenance staff is currently providing the labor required to deliver the water to the existing customers in a weekly rotation on a Monday through Friday schedule," the staff report says. "The hourly rate of $14.50 of service still applies. The new water flow meter installed with the new system reflects a current water delivery rate of 250 to 300 gallons per minute. This is less than the old pump system, thus requiring a longer amount of time needed to fully irrigate the residential property.

"Several of the customers have requested the opportunity to independently or self-water their personal property. Staff is currently evaluating the control and accounting process along with the cost of automating the use and delivery of the water with a PIN control or electronic card swipe device. Our initial findings are that the cost of automating the system would cause us to exceed the City Council-approved repair allowance and would represent a significant charge per user."

The staff report adds that, "Any new customers seeking to connect to the system after June 16, 2014, shall be responsible for the same amount to be used as an initial-buy in fee until the full cost of the repairs have been recovered by the city. 

"Although unlikely given the history of the area, if additional customers connect to the system such that the buy-in fee would exceed the cost of repairs, the buy in fee for those users shall be used to help establish a capital fee toward future repairs."


Other items on the Monday agenda include:

• A bid of $896,038 for slurry seal for street resurfacing.

• A bid of $327,919 for asphalt rubber chip seal.

• Purchase of 624 96-gallon trash containers for $35,126.

• Spending $62,901 for a loader for the Public Works Department.

• A final plat for a convenience story north of Florence Boulevard at Camino Mercado.

• A zone change to allow Arizona Water Co. to have a water tank, arsenic treatment vessels and other equipment at 1300 N. Henness Road.


McDonald's at mall to be 'latest and greatest' style

(Posted Oct. 2, 2013)


You'll find the agenda item and staff report at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


The McDonald's fast food restaurant scheduled for the Promenade mall will be "the latest and greatest prototype," the Planning and Zoning Commission was told Thursday night.

(See views above)

The 5,252-square-foot restaurant with dual drive-through lanes and outdoor seating area under a covered patio will be built on a vacant lot between Olive Garden and Mimi's.

Scott Audsley, area construction manager for McDonald's, told the commission that, "We're excited to get under way with our third restaurant in Casa Grande. This location will be franchised-owned, which 90 percent of the McDonald's are.

"We're excited to do the latest and greatest prototype with enhanced drive-through and lobby, as well as the patio which we've added to this restaurant.

"We are working toward a May groundbreaking, hope to have the restaurant open in the summer of 2015."

Commission member Joel Braunstein pointed out that there are already three McDonald's in Casa Grande, not two. 

Two are on Florence Boulevard, the third on Pinal Avenue.

"This one hasn't been franchised yet," Audsley said, "so it will be offered to either the franchisee that operates the other two or it may be another one that's nearby. There's two in the running for it."

Commission chairman Jeff Lavender noted that when the commission approved a Raising Cane chicken outlet on the other side of Florence Boulevard between Walgreens and Culver's the hours of operation were restricted, requiring closing between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

"McDonald's is normally open 24 hours," Lavender said. "Is there any provision here to restrict (McDonald's) hours?

City Planner Jim Gagliardi responded that the Raising Cane operation was a conditional use within the Mission Royale commercial complex. "It was recognized that an adjacent fast food restaurant that was in that same zoning had those same hours, and so that was the recommended condition," he said.

Convenience food restaurants within the mall do not have the same conditions, he said.

Audsley told the commission that, "With this being a freeway location, it would be our intention to have the opportunity to run 24 hours. The franchisee has some say in that. If they're running a business and if they're not seeing a lot of traffic during the evening hours they'll close the dining area and possibly the drive-through, as well."

Braunstein said his question, given the number of convenience food outlets approved by the commission in the past few months, would be, "Why another fast food restaurant? I don't think it's the way that development in this town needs to go."

The vote to approve the major site plan for the McDonald's was 6-1, with Braunstein opposed.


Thursday actions by Planning & Zoning Commission

(Posted Oct. 2, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


These actions were taken Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission:

• Approved a major site plan and final landscape plan for a Tractor Supply Co. regional distribution center on 100 acres at the southeast corner of Peters and Burris roads. 

The building is projected to be 663,617 square feet, with an expansion capability of 369,400 square feet.

• Approved a major site plan request for a 5,251-square-foot McDonald's with drive through on a Promenade mall between Olive Garden and Mimi's.

• Approved replatting of land in Casa Grande Business Park at the southwest corner of Gila Bend Highway and Thornton Road to allow conversion of an industrial building to a commercial bakery and building additions to the building for new product storage and loading facilities.

• Approved a preliminary plat for subdividing part of the commercial portion of Mission Royale across from Promenade mall into three lots to accommodate future development.

• Approved a request for a conditional use permit to building two homes in the Cottonwood Ranch subdivision on East Kingman Street, one for a model home and one for a sales office.

• Had the first hearing on a major General Plan amendment request to change 111 acres of the 585-acre PhoenixMart project from neighborhoods designation to commerce and business.

• Approved a conditional use permit for a two-home model sales complex within Cottonwood Ranch on Kingman Street.

• Approved adding a new single-family home model in the Los Portales subdivision on North St. Andrews Drive.

When the lights go out, the generators come on

(Posted Sept. 30, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE


When the lights go out at city buildings, the emergency generators go on -- or are supposed to.

That's why the city is calling for bids for generator routine maintenance and repair.

Under a one-year contract, extendable for up to four times, routine maintenance service calls would be done every three months and load testing every year, the request says.

The generators are located at:

• Public Safety Facility, 373 E. Val Vista Blvd.

• Fire Station 501, 119 E. Florence Blvd.

• Fire Station 502, 1479 E. Ninth St.

• Fire Station 503, 3305 N. Piper Ave.

• Fire Station 504, 1637 E. McCartney Road.

• City Hall Building B, 510 E Florence Blvd.

• Public Safety Communication Center, 520 N. Marshall St.

• Waste Water Treatment Facility, 1194 W. Kortsen Road.


Part of old co-op building sign will be donated

(Posted Sept. 27, 2014)


A move is afoot to donate part of the "Tools" sign at the old co-op building to the Historic Preservation Commission, which in turn will give it to the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society.

The building, on the northwest corner of Florence Boulevard and Peart Road, is being renovated to be the location of Harbor Freight Tools.

Addressing members of the commission during the last commission meeting, Chairman Marge Jantz said, "Harbor Freight is going to donate just the Tool part. They're going to utilize the rest of the sign, use all the bubbles and put the Harbor Freight box sign on the top."

Jantz said that originally Harbor Freight was going to cover the Tools part of the sign with the new box logo.

"I talked to Harbor Freight the other day and Irene said that probably the week of the 29th is when they're going to be installing signs. I asked her if they could donate the Tools piece and she said, of course we will."

A date to turn the sign over to the commission had not yet been set, Jantz said.

She said Harbor Freight was sort of surprised by the request, "but they were willing to work with us very nicely. They want to be good community members."

Jantz said the sign could be stored at the historical society's display barn "until such time it may be better used in a public place.

"That's going to the museum director and the board president and they are excited about that."


Funds sought for old Don Market restoration

(Posted Sept. 25, 2014)


Renovation of the old Don Market on Florence and First streets is stalled for now as the Don family assesses the project and tries to find out if federal or state historic preservation funds are available, the Historic Preservation Commission was told during its last meeting.

"Some of the Don family met the other day with Main Street and some other individuals downtown regarding the Don Market," Chairman Marge Jantz said. 

"They have already renovated the property next door. 

"They really want to do something with the Don Market, but they're a little overwhelmed at the moment because they've already worked on one building and the personal residence. The family lived up there (top floor) and they just feel really connected with that building.

"They really want it to be something that's going to honor the family.

"They were really on a kind of fact finding mission to see if there was any state money, which there isn't, or federal, which there could be but they'd have to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and they're not. They're interested in getting funds to repair the building."

Jantz said she told the Dons that she would call the State Historic Preservation Office to see what might be available.

"That property was surveyed in 1998 and at that time the survey said it could be a contributor if we had a downtown historic district but at that time they didn't feel that it was individually eligible," Jantz said.

"It was a really good meeting and they are really interested in doing something to honor the family. They really don't want to sell the building, they want to keep it but they want more use for it. 

"They were also asking if somebody could do a mural on the side, but it's really a little bit way to early for that because we don't know what's going to happen to the building."

City Planner Laura Blakeman, the liaison to the commission, said that as far as she knows the Don family had not approached the Planning and Development Department about the work. 

Further work on the two projects by the Dons would probably include restoring the sidewalk overhangs, or masonry canopies.

"The canopies probably first and foremost need to be taken care of," Jantz said. "When Ellison-Mills was working on the downtown street (the Florence Street renovation project) they did something with those awnings so they could move forward with the project, but they know that those are in really desperate need of repair."


Burned home asbestos removal bids sought

(Posted Sept. 23, 2014)


The complete request is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking bids for removal of asbestos contamination and the partial demolition of a home at 409 W. Second Ave.

In addition to removal of asbestos contaminated material, the request says work will include complete removal of the roof and all interior walls, along with removing all demolition debris.

According to a Casa Grande Police Department release on July 14 of this year, the fire was reported the morning of July 9 and was being investigated as arson.


Demolition of burned apartments approved

Severe fire damage at the west end of the apartments building is shown above.



(Posted Sept. 22, 2014)


The staff report, with building inspection report and city code sections, is HERE


A certificate of appropriateness for demolition of six apartments behind the Fisher Memorial Home that were heavily damage during a May fire and had long been in disrepair was approved Monday night by the Historic Preservation Commission.

The certificate was required because the apartments are on the Fisher Memorial Home property at Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, a site classified as a historic location. The apartments building, though, was not classified as historic.

The Fisher Memorial Home at 300 E. Eighth St., originally a funeral parlor, was built in 1927, but owner James McClelland told the commission he does not know when the apartments were constructed, being there when he bought the property in 1976.

A building inspection of the burned apartments structure in August found that, among other things, "the residential building has suffered extensive structural damage due to failure of the weather-resisting measures and fire damage to the exterior support walls and roof. 

"Based on the damage to the structural components of the building and the fact that the overall condition of the property is a hazard to anyone entering the building and or approaching portions of the building, city staff is recommending the building be demolished."

A condition of demolition is that it be completed within 60 days.

"I go along with it," McClelland told the commission. If there's any problem I'll try and get it taken care of."

He said one problem that must be taken care of before demolition can be started is that there is a bee colony in one of the apartments. He said he is attempting to find a removal service but, "I haven't been able to nail down someone to do that for me, have not."

The demolition contractor has told him that once that is taken care of, McClelland said, "he can have it done in a week's time."


Inspection report

This is the Aug. 14 building inspection report:


Based on the invitation of the property owner a visual inspection of the fire damaged residential apartment building located at 300 E. Eighth St. (hereafter known as the property) was performed to determine if the remaining structural components presented an immediate safety concern.

 The property has extensive damage to the west end of the structure due to a fire in May 2014. Structural walls and parts of the roof structure have been burned away and can no longer support the imposed loads, There is additional fire damage due to embers on the rear (north side) of the structure and on the south side awning above the doors into the rooms. 

In accessing the extent of fire damage to the structure a significant amount of structural failure due to rot and other damage was noted. The exterior weather protection has failed and allowed water intrusion into the roof and wall structures. It is recommended that no one enter the building due to the loss of the structural integrity. 

The property was fabricated using wood framing with stucco and roof sheeting of 1x6 lumber and various roof coverings including corrugated metal and composition shingles. Interior walls are wood frame with gypsum sheeting. The structure is built on a wood floor system as well as a structural slab-on-grade. Both floor systems appear to have failed with vertical displacement in several areas of the porch. 

The following items were noted on the exterior of the structure: 

• The west end of the building has significant fire damage to the supporting walls and roof structure. 

• There is visible structural damage to the roof and structural support walls and awning support posts. 

• The roof coverings have failed and/or are missing, allowing water intrusion into the structure causing damage to the structure. 

• The awning roof on the south side of the structure is failing and collapsing. 

• There are electrical wires and devices installed on the exterior of the property contrary to the requirements of the National Electrical Code and pose a hazard to anyone entering the property. 

• Electrical service equipment panels on the north side of the structure are open with the meters still installed.


The interior of several apartments were examined with the following observations:

 

Apartment # 4 

(western end of the building adjacent to the fire damage): 

• Water damage from roof failure. 

• Ceiling failing and collapsing into the rooms. 

• Water damage visible at several areas of the north wall. Extent of damage to framing unknown without demolition. 

• Ceiling, walls and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 


Apartment #5: 

• Water damage to north exterior wall and west interior wall. Mold and other signs of extensive damage. 

• Wood floor in this apartment has failing and is extremely uneven. It appears that the original floor was constructed on or very close to the soils below the structure. 

• Ceiling shows water intrusion and damage to the ceiling and roof. Other damage to ceiling caused by vandals. 

• Colony of bees in north exterior wall. 

• Ceiling, walls, and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 


Apartment #6 

• Signs of water damage from unknown entry. Ceiling, walls, and contents all show some degree of damage from excessive moisture. 

• Mold in north east corner of apartment. 


"In conclusion, the inspection of the property indicates that the residential building has suffered extensive structural damage due to failure of the weather-resisting envelope and fire damage to exterior support walls and roof." 


CG jobless rate for August at 7.6%, down a bit

(Posted Sept. 18, 2014)


Unemployment during August dropped just slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.6 percent during August, down from 7.9 during July. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,598 people out of work during August, down from 1,672 for July. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.1 percent jobless rate (680 people out of work) for August 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had an August rate of 7.7 percent jobless (29,432 without work), down from 7.8 (29,910) during July. The August 2007 rate was 4.3.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.3 percent jobless rate for August (341 unemployed), down from 7.4 percent (348) during July. The August 2007 rate was 7.9.

Eloy

11.9 rate for August (473 jobless), down from 12.1 (484) during July. The August 2007 rate was 6.5.

Florence

8.1 rate for August (253 jobless), down from 8.4 during July (266). The August 2007 rate was 4.3.

Maricopa city

7 rate for August (1,393 jobless), down from 7.3 during July (1,466). The August 2007 rate was 4.9.


Can you spare a dime -- or a street corner?

(Posted Sept. 17, 2014)


The number of panhandlers on Casa Grande streets and at intersections seems to be growing, causing more telephone calls to him, Councilman Matt Herman said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

There's also a problem of homeless people building shacks or other shelters on vacant land within town, Councilman Dick Powell said.

It has been pointed out before that some of the homeless are military veterans. Councilman Ralph Varela gave the council a short presentation on how Casa Grande could be a resource center contact for veterans.


Panhandlers

"I've gotten a few more calls this week about the panhandlers," Herman said, adding that he has explained to callers that the city has no ordinance against panhandling, something involving First Amendment rights.

"But I'm just thinking of a safety issue that we're having," he said.

"There's getting to be a lot of people and I've heard of some of these people fighting over different corners that they stake out, actually looks like an organized business going."

Casa Grande is a city that will help people down on their luck, Herman said.

"I don't want it to be perceived any other way," he continued, "but it's just a safety issue for a lot of our residents and I have been getting a lot of calls about, seems to be getting more prevalent, going to get more so as the weather gets nicer, too.

"So if there is something we can do about the safety issue on that, I would appreciate it."

It's an issue the city has been facing for years.

Ten years ago, Police Board Chairman Karl Montoya (now on the City Council) brought a Bullhead City ordinance against panhandling and loitering to the board for discussion.

"Basically what we have in our downtown district is a lot of loitering, some begging and it's really become an unsightly picture downtown," Montoya said at that Police Board meeting. 

"We're trying to find if we do have an ordinance, if we need an updated ordinance or see if we can pass an ordinance to take care of some of the problems."

Scott McCoy, city attorney at that time, said there is a state law against panhandling and the city also has ordinances against drinking on the streets.

Loitering ordinances, he said, have consistently been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as targeting one segment of society, adding that any city ordinance against loitering would probably be thrown out for vagueness and discrimination.

"This statute from Bullhead City would not pass constitutional muster, I can assure you," he said. "The reason it is still on the books is probably that nobody has challenged it."


(Two stories from that 2004 Police Board meeting were written by the CG News owner, then a city government reporter for the Casa Grande Dispatch.

(The main story is HERE.  An explanatory secondary story is HERE.)


Squatters

In addition to the panhandlers, Powell said, "we've had some squatters, I think everybody's aware of kind of what's going on.

"There's people that are moving in, some on bare land, just building areas with things they gathered up around town and stuff like that.

"I think that's something is kind of new. I don't remember that issue every having come up before."


Veterans

Varela said he attended a veterans' initiatives workshop during a recent conference of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. Noted during that workshop, he said, was that there are about 600,000 veterans of all era, around 25 percent of them in rural areas.

"One of the things that was presented was a challenge to cities and town to develop a care and military veterans resource network," Varela continued.

"Really, what it would require is to designate a city staff person or department to undertake this initiative, requires training for city staff and department, requires that we appoint a contact for the city. There really is no cost to it."

Varela passed the report on to City Manager Jim Thompson "so that we can kind of look at how the city can position itself to be a resource network."


The comments from Herman, Powell and Varela came during council reports at the end of the meeting. Because the subjects were not on the formal agenda, no action could be taken.


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted Sept. 15, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Initial approval was given Monday night by the City Council to a request from the Historic Preservation Commission to change the name of Washington Street to its original Top and Bottom Street.

(Scroll down under COMMUNITY for earlier CG News stories on the subject.)

• Gave initial approval to a contract for $81,018 for updating the city airport layout plan.

• Gave initial approval to an agreement to add $200,000 of city money to the $750,000 to be put up by owners of Central Arizona Commerce Park for upgrading of infrastructure.

• Gave initial approval to donating a 25-year-old Fire Department 100-foot platform to Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology for use in fire science classes. The staff report says the 1987 year model platform has been advertised for sale but because it is so old there have been no offers to buy. The platform was replaced by a newer model last year.


City seeks manager for sewer plant work

(Posted Sept. 14, 2014)


You'll find the complete request at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/CMAR-WRF2014.pdf



Casa Grande is seeking a construction manager at risk for repair, refurbishing or replacement work at the city's sewage treatment plant.

A construction manager at risk contract is one where the bidder guarantees to do the work within a certain amount of money. If it goes over that, the bidder is responsible for the added costs.

The project includes:

• Headworks coarse-screening equipment – rebuild or replacement of existing.

• Grit-removal equipment – anticipated rebuild of existing.

• Odor-control equipment at the headworks building – replacement of existing.

The budget is expected to be a maximum of $750,000.


City honored for its redesigned website

(Posted Sept. 12, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The city of Casa Grande has received an award of excellence by the City-County Communications & Marketing Association (3CMA) for its redesigned website, www.casagrandeaz.gov

Casa Grande was one of three national winners in the category of digital interactive – overall website.   The City was recognized during the annual Savvy Awards ceremony at this year’s 3CMA conference held Sept. 3-5 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Casa Grande launched its redesigned website in July 2013. The new website was designed entirely in-house by Tom Picklesimer, the city’s webmaster using WordPress, an open-source content management system. 

Some of the new features of the website include live video streaming of council meetings and a “How do I” tab to take visitors directly to job openings, pay city utility bill, and report graffiti. The new website also includes a comprehensive calendar of events and tabs that separate news/announcements, items of interest, public meetings, a featured video and pet adoptions.

“Love the simple format of the homepage,” said the judges. The judges also praised the city for using WordPress instead of expensive third party software. More than 600 entries in 37 categories were submitted from across the country in this year’s Savvy Awards competition.

“Our main focus has always been to make sure our website is easy to navigate and updated with current information,” said Agustin Avalos, the city's public information officer. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts by a national organization.”

According to 3CMA, the Savvy Awards recognize outstanding local government achievements in communications, public-sector marketing and citizen-government relationships. The Savvies salute skilled and effective city, county, agency or district professionals who have creatively planned and carried out successful innovations in communications and marketing.


Bids sought to rehab 50-year-old hangars

(Posted Sept. 9, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for bids and scope of work HERE


The airport master plan is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking bids for rehabilitating two hangars at the city airport that are more than 50 years old.

The work on hangers one and two, to be done no more than two bays at a time, includes column base, sheet metal siding and hangar door repairs.


Crack sealing contract for street maintenance OK'd

(Posted Sept. 7, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


Approval of a contract for up to $100,000 for crack sealing material for city streets sets the stage for continued maintenance of Casa Grande streets.

"This is a program that we've been very aggressive with," Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the City Council prior to initial approval of the contract. "We feel that this is probably one of our most effective pieces of maintenance that we can do to our streets to keep the moisture from penetrating the subgrade and increasing the deterioration of the pavement."

Louis said the contract, with final approval set during the next meeting, allows spending up to $100,000 but, "I don't think we're going to need that amount. Typically, we spend about $60,000, but we do have the ability to look at what our purchase needs are in that account and make adjustments. We did want that spending authority prior to moving forward."

Keeping city streets in repair as long as possible before costly replacement is important enough that Councilman Dick Powell, usually conservative about spending taxpayer money, said, "This is probably the only time I've ever asked you this, but I would be very happy if you spent all of it. There's a lot of streets in Casa Grande, so I would like to see every penny of it spent."

Mayor Bob Jackson concurred, adding, "I do think it is the least expensive thing and the most important thing to do, so I agree with you."

Louis said crack sealing will be done by city crews on streets that will receive overall sealant this year.

Work will be done as soon as possible, he told the council.

"Sometimes what we'll do is we'll order some of the material ahead of time within our spending limits to get started," he continued, "so we may order a few pallets within my spending limit and then they'll get started. But this is something we'll start as soon as we're able to get the material on site."

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if the type of crack sealing material changes from time to time because of improved technology.

"We do a lot of research," Louis replied. "Arizona State University has a great asphalt materials conference that they put on each year and they have their students go through and do projects and they bring in vendors, so we're exposed to a lot of opportunities throughout difference conferences throughout the year to look at those different materials.

"That, and the sales reps are very aggressive in bringing that material out and sample it for us.

"In the eight years that I've been here we've probably used five different crack seal materials. It's something that just evolves. Materials are introduced into the system, the new polymer, the rubber modified additives to make that material work a little better.

"Obviously, we look at that cost benefit, where is that break point. We spend a lot more money on a more improved project product, but we think that this project meets our need."

Fitzgibbons wanted to know how products are chosen.

"When you're choosing the product, I'm sure that these sales reps can come from Colorado where the weather's not 130 degrees, or whatever, so how do you take that into consideration?" she asked. "Are they testing it in Arizona? When you go to this conference do they show examples of how it works in Arizona, probably one of the hottest places, I would imagine?"

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen then pointed out that the paperwork given to the council showed that the purchase will be for hot weather type of material.

"We really rely on the state of Arizona," Louis said. "They have their own material labs and we rely on some of the data that they're able to generate. But there are a lot of private industries out there that do the testing. There's a lot of different areas where we can compare product to product to see what's best for this area, what's best for our type of asphalt. Asphalt here is different than asphalt in Flagstaff, so those different characteristics are taken into consideration as we pick these materials."


A Taco Bell coming to Villago Marketplace

The Taco Bell site in Villago Marketplace is outlined in red on map at left.


(Posted Sept. 4, 2014)


A major site plan for a Taco Bell restaurant in Villago Marketplace was approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The 2,566-square-foot restaurant with drive-through will be in the center of the south part of Village Marketplace abutting McCartney Road.

Construction of the project will begin as soon as possible, the commission was told.


In other action Thursday night, the commission:

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council on a request by Arizona Water Co. to change zoning at its 1300 N. Henness Road wellsite to allow reduced setback requirements, making it easier to install new arsenic removal treatment equipment and storage tank.

"Arizona Water Co. has plans to expand the arsenic removal facility to increase treatment capacity to meet water supply demands of the community …," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says.

• Approved a preliminary plat to resubdivide lots six and seven at Casa Grande Shopping Center to allow Western Dental to move into part of the building occupied by Pet Club until it moved to the north end of the center.

The present configuration of the lots does not allow enough parking under city code for a business such as Western Dental. Moving the property line of lot seven about 77.5 feet to the west will allow for more space. 

The spaces are already there, but are part of an earlier configuration for retail business, requiring one parking space for each 200 square feet of floor space. Western Dental, as a medical classification, will need one space for each 200 feet of space, or 38 spaces, necessitating the boundary change.


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


Tuesday night actions by the City Council

(Posted Sept. 2, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken Tuesday night by the City Council:

• Gave initial approval to using grant money to self-contained breathing apparatus equipment for the Fire Department at a cost of $113,339.

• Gave initial approval to purchasing a loader for the Sanitation Department at a cost of $66,155.

• Gave initial approval to spending $100,000 for streets crack sealing material for the Streets Department.

During a study session before the regular meeting, heard from Police Chief Johnny Cervantes about personnel turnover in the Police Department.

The hour and a half session will be covered in a series of upcoming CG News articles.


Santa Cruz Crossing developer backs down on plan
to reroute Santa Cruz Wash, phase in infrastructure

(Posted Sept. 1, 2014)


The 2006 proposal map is HERE


The latest proposal map is HERE


A map showing the area in relation to neighbors is HERE


The Aug. 4 City Council staff report is HERE


The Aug. 18 City Council staff report is HERE


The Planning and Zoning Commission staff report is HERE


The traffic analysis conclusion is HERE


Army Corps of Engineers flood letter is HERE



In the wake of the rejection by the City Council of its new plans for the Santa Cruz Crossing  development at the southeast corner of Rodeo and Trekell roads, the developers have backed down and say they will no longer reroute the North Branch of the Santa Cruz Wash. 

Rodeo Road improvements, including a neighborhood drive so residents to the north in Rancho Grande will no longer have to back out onto Rodeo, will now be in the first phase of the new plan, they say.

The plan to amend the planned area development, which was approved by the city in 2006 but never built, was passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission but ran into opposition from the council, mostly centering on possibility of flooding caused by rerouting the Santa Cruz Wash from the center of the development to the southern boundary. Neighbors appeared at the council meetings to express concerns that the change would cause flooding in their subdivisions, mainly Desert Valley and along Bisnaga Street.

The first council hearing was Aug. 4, but was continued until Aug. 18 to gather more information to answer the questions. After hearing from the developer and residents during that second meeting, the council denied the application. Voting in favor were Mayor Bob Jackson and councilmen Matt Herman and Karl Montoya. Opposed were councilmen Ralph Varela and Dick Powell. Councilwoman Mary Kortsen was absent and Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons recused herself because her law firm was representing another development and objecting to allowing Rodeo Road improvements to be part of later development of Santa Cruz Crossing.

Backing down by the developers was included toward the end of a letter to the city reproduced as a full page advertisement in the Casa Grande Dispatch on Sunday, Aug. 31.

The letter from Joseph A. Miller, chief executive officer of Integria Development Inc. listed what it sees as factors in the development.

In the last paragraph of the Aug. 21 letter, Miller said, "After the council denied our PAD amendment, we have decide to revise our plan to align the drainage with the approved 2006 PAD as that seemed to be the main point of contention.

"In addition, we will bring the offsite improvements along Rodeo Road into Phase I to alleviate the city's concern that they will be left with anything but an improved project accompanied with anything but an improved project accompanied with high quality assisted living and independent living apartments."

Dennis Fitzgibbons, a Casa Grande attorney, had appeared at both City Council hearings, saying that allowing the the phasing of major improvements would be contrary to policy toward other developments approved in the past. Those approvals, including a proposed  assisted and independent living facility next to the Villas at Mary T, required upfront improvements for traffic and drainage, he said.

The original proposal for Santa Cruz Crossing kept the Santa Cruz Wash flowing through the center of the development. The proposal denied by the council would reroute it to the southern border of the project.

Santa Cruz Crossing was originally envisioned as mainly a residential development, with some mixed use. The revised plan as outlined in the Planning and Zoning Commission staff report proposed:

• Adding an assisted living facility as a permitted use.

• Removing an office area.

• Providing development standards for previously approved commercial and residential areas.

• Relocating the area previously shown as “Green Court Homes,” a high-density single-family area, to a more southerly portion of the site and reclassifying it as senior patio homes.

• Adding two-story senior apartment homes in the northern area of the PAD (adjacent to Rodeo Road, west of a future Pueblo Drive, south of Rodeo Drive).

• Adding an area for a community center.

• Changing proposed alignment of future Pueblo Drive through the site to extend to the south end of the PAD.

• Realignment of the natural east-west drainage corridor that traverses the site from its current area to a more southerly location.

In the letter to the city, Miller said that, "Integria Development and the Fabricant family would like to express our extreme disappointment in the City Council's decision to deny our application to amend our approved planned area development (PAD) at Rodeo and Trekell Roads. Your professional staff and experts felt confident, as did our expert engineers, that our redesign addressed all of the concerns that came up … 

"Unfortunately, for the city of Casa Grande and the neighbors, we will not be able to move forward as quickly as originally planned. Our goal has always been to improve Casa Grande by developing approximately 94 acres creating jobs, revenue, new residences and, with our amendment, providing more choices for its aging population. 

"Currently, Casa Grande does not have the capacity in assisted living to care for the aging population, even with the development of the other currently proposed facility on Cottonwood (the facilities next to Mary T at Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane). There is, and will be for years to come, a great need for more assisted living in Casa Grande. The advent of these two new luxury facilities may attract new residents to the area from Phoenix, Tucson and other areas in proximity. Casa Grande is growing and our project will only help not hinder its future success."

Miller said that the amended proposal "more than adequately addressed" concerns brought up during both council meetings.

"First," the letter continued, "it should be noted that the widening of Rodeo Road and frontage road was included and approved on the 2006 PAD by the council at that time. 

This portion remained basically unchanged from the approved 2006 PAD. However, because it came up we should address this concern today. 

"We will dedicate three acres of our property to improve the conditions that our neighbors to the north of Rodeo currently have. We can all agree that backing out of a driveway onto a major road is unsafe. Our plan corrects and addresses that unsafe condition. The neighbors will benefit from the frontage road by being able to safely exit their driveways and the buffer makes it safer for children to play up and down the street in front of their homes and not on or near the heavily trafficked Rodeo Road. 

"As for the Desert Valley subdivision, we all recognize that they have a serious flooding issue. In 1985, the Fabricants donated the 20 acres of land south of that neighborhood to the city to channelize the north branch of the Santa Cruz Wash back to its original location. It was their generosity that made the area safer for all of the residents in the area by redirecting the natural flows of the wash. 

"The city designed and built the drainage devices that unfortunately may be inadequate and, from time to time, overflow creating flooding conditions for the Desert Valley subdivision. As you saw from the FEMA flood map the Desert Valley subdivision is mostly located in the 100-year flood zone. 

"However, our project and engineered channels will collect the water that flows from the north of the Desert Valley subdivision through our project. These waters will be collected and expelled through the proper drainage culverts beneath Trekell Road, all but eliminating the waters flowing into their subdivision from our property. Collecting and directing those waters helps immensely by not adding to the waters that rise up from the south of their properties in times of severe flooding. 

"Of course, we cannot eliminate their flooding issues entirely as they receive water from the Santa Cruz Wash and the adjacent Arroyo Linda PAD to our east. 

"However, we can lessen the probability of our water effecting (sic) the Desert Valley subdivision which, in fact, protects those residents that border our southern property line and in no way puts those residents in any sort of jeopardy, in deep contrast to what was presented and discussed at the hearings."


It's a light agenda for City Council on Tuesday

(Posted Aug. 29, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


It's a light agenda when the City Council meets Tuesday night, a day later than normal because of the Labor Day holiday.

The regular meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

A study session at 5:30 p.m. at the same location and also open to the public will continue the presentation by Police Chief Johnny Cervantes on progress being made on the Police Department's strategic plan.

Items on the 7 p.m. agenda include:

• Using grant money to self-contained breathing apparatus equipment for the Fire Department at a cost of $113,339.

• Purchasing a loader for the Sanitation Department at a cost of $66,155.

• Spending $100,000 for streets crack sealing material for the Streets Department.


City offices closed Monday for Labor Day holiday

(Posted Aug. 27, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


All city of Casa Grande offices, with the exception of emergency services, will be closed on Monday, Sept. 1, in observance of Labor Day.

Trash normally collected on Monday will be collected on Tuesday. Trash normally collected on Tuesday will be collected on Wednesday.

Recycling materials that are normally collected on Monday will be collected on Tuesday,  along with normal Tuesday pick-up.

The Casa Grande Landfill will be closed on Monday, returning to normal operating hours (7 a.m. -4 p.m.) on Tuesday.

For information on the holiday schedule, call the Public Works Department at 421-8625.


Building or rebuilding roads in Casa Grande is more
than tossing down asphalt and hoping for the best

(Posted Aug. 24, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The contract, with scope of work, is HERE



In the old days, if you wanted a road you ran a bulldozer across the land, threw down some blacktop and hoped for the best.

Today, it involves major studies and designs, even for roadway improvements.

No longer do crews go out, find a pothole or crumbling shoulder and put down some gravel base and fill the area with new asphalt, calling it done.

And, as cities grow, heavier traffic pounds the roadways built years before, causing gradual deterioration.

Such is the case with improving Thornton Road from the Gila Bend Highway to West Cottonwood Lane, a $222,675 project just for the design alone, breaking the work into a half-mile section from Gila Bend to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and another just under half a mile from there to Cottonwood. 

The later construction work, for which no start date has been announced, is estimated at $1.5 million for the first section and $1.1 million for the second.

Initial approval of a contract with Schlesinger Consulting Engineering of Tucson for the design of full reconstruction and drainage improvements came during the last City Council meeting.

The work has long been needed, prompting Councilman Matt Herman to comment that, "As someone who drives that road often, it's very much needed. That's an area we're trying to designate as our industry and light manufacturing area, so it's going to be very important to have good transportation in that area."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "This is probably the one I get the most calls on. I'm just very happy to see the city's going to address it and I think it'll be certainly appreciated."

The city has long envisioned Thornton as a major route through the industrial area, keeping heavy trucks from coming all the way down Pinal Avenue to Gila Bend and then west to the industrial area. In other words, it would be a northbound bypass to Cottonwood, then east and then north on Pinal. The reverse would be true for southbound traffic.

City Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel read the staff report to the council, pointing out that Thornton from Gila Bend to Cottonwood is now two lanes with limited curbs, sidewalks and storm drains.

"This road is deteriorating due to the large amount of truck traffic and poor storm drainage," the report says. "The Public Works Department has performed some temporary repairs on the section from Gila Bend Highway to the railroad tracks to provide temporary improvements on a short-term basis. 

"This project will provide the design services necessary to then construct a permanent solution to the substandard conditions that will support future industrial development in that area."

According to the staff report, the work would include replacing the existing pavement and improving the subgrade. There would be no change to the road width or its alignment, although some engineering work would be needed to improve drainage.

The project will be complicated because approvals and permits will be needed from the Arizona Department of Transportation, the railroad and San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District, which has a irrigation ditch in the area. The report indicates that there is the possibility that the ditch could be abandoned.

Eitel pointed out that the $222,675 design cost with Schlesinger for the $2.6-million construction falls into industry standards  that design costs generally fall between 6 to 12 percent of construction costs.

That fee is reasonable, Eitel said, "when you take into account the large amount of coordination required with ADOT, UPRR, and the San Carlos Irrigation Drainage District."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted Aug. 18, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken Monday night by the City Council:


• Gave initial approval to a $223,675 contract for roadway design for improving Thornton Road between Gila Bend Highway and Cottonwood Lane. The project, in brief, would replace deteriorating pavement and make other repairs. The first phase would be from Gila Bend Highway to the Union Pacific tracks, the second from there to Cottonwood Lane.

Other agenda items include:

• Gave initial approval to a $31,065 contract for removal of asbestos and lead-based paint from the city-owned former Raggedy Ann Day Care Center at 419 W. Second St., just off Pinal Avenue, prior to demolition.

• On a 3-2 vote, rejected a major proposed amendment to the Santa Cruz Crossing development at the southeast corner of Rodeo and Trekell roads. Approval would have required at least four votes. In favor were Mayor Bob Jackson and council members Matt Herman and Karl Montoya. Voting against were council members Dick Powell and Ralph Varela. Councilwoman Mary Kortsen was absent and Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons recused herself because her law firm is part of objections to some conditions the changes. The item had been held over from the last meeting because of questions about flooding and traffic. The same questions arose during Monday's session.

• Gave initial approval to purchase of a 4x4 pickup truck to be used for carrying equipment for the Police Department's traffic unit.

• Watched the swearing in of three new officers in the Police Department. (A photo is posted under POLICE.)


Development around PhoenixMart seeing changes

(Posted Aug. 17, 2014)


The notice is HERE


Activity around the proposed PhoenixMart wholesale showroom complex east of Interstate 10 may be picking up.

A notice posted by the city says that on Sept. 4 the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a request for a major amendment to the 3,714-acre Overfield Farms planned area development, designating 445 acres as a residential area,

The 500-plus-acre PhoenixMart site, a part of the original Storey Farms planned area development,  sits at the bottom center of the Overfield Farms PAD area, generally bounded by Hacienda Road on the west and Overfield Road on the east.

The staff report is not yet available, but the notice indicates that the request includes:

• Refining 445 acres of the 3,714-acre Overfield Farms PAD as Alcea at Overfield Farms defining specific development standards for the area.

• Inclusion of development master plans including land use; landscape and open space; streets; pedestrian, bicycle, and trails; drainage; water; wastewater and phasing.

• Adding a school use, rearranging locations of previously approved land uses.


July jobless rate in Casa Grande drops to 7.9%

(Posted Aug. 15, 2014)


Unemployment during July dropped slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Friday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 7.9 percent during July, down from 8.4 during June. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,675 people out of work during July, down from 1,769 for June. 

By contrast, Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate for July 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a July rate of 7.8 percent jobless (11,085 without work), down from 8.1 (11,478) during June. The July 2007 rate was 4.5.

The state's July rate was 7.4, down from 7.5 during June. The July 2007 rate was 3.9.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.4 percent jobless rate for July (349 unemployed), down from 7.7 percent (361) during June. The July 2007 rate was 8.2.

Eloy

12.1 rate for July (484 jobless), down from 12.5 (502) during June. The July 2007 rate was 6.7.

Florence

8.4 rate for July (266 jobless), down from 9.3 during June (297). The July 2007 rate was 4.4.

Maricopa city

7.3 rate for July (1,468 jobless), down from 7.4 during June (1,482). The July 2007 rate was 5.


Raising Cane's chicken restaurant approved

A typical Raising Cane's building, above.



(Posted Aug. 7, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

          http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


Another chicken restaurant in the Promenade mall area will be built on the south side of East Florence Boulevard between Culver's restaurant and Walgreens.

Approval for a conditional use permit and major site plan for the Raising Cane's chicken restaurant and a separate multi-tenant building was granted unanimously Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Raising Cane’s is proposed as a 3,616-square-feet convenience food restaurant with a drive through. Within the Mission Royale planned area development, a convenience food restaurant is a conditionally permitted use requiring consideration by the Planning Commission.

Across Florence, a Chick-fil-A restaurant is located east of the Target store. 

The major site plan is for the restaurant and the 6,023-square-feet multi-tenant building having two tenant spaces.

According to the staff report, "No specific tenants are presently being considered with this plan; however the Mission Royale PAD allows uses such as certain types of retail, office, medical office, or restaurant."

The commission was told Thursday night that both buildings would be built at the same time.

A condition laid down for the restaurant is that it be closed between 11 p.m.-7 a.m. each day, a concession to neighbors to the south in Mission Royale.

No construction start date or opening date were given.


http://www.raisingcanes.com/


In other action Thursday night, the commission:


• Because of lack of progress in negotiations between the city and the company, held over for two months a major site plan/final development plan for a one-story, 6,972-square-feet O'Reilly Auto Parts store on Florence Boulevard. It would be on a vacant pad in front of Lowe's home improvements store, between Western Bank and Eegee's.

The city's position that the Community Center land use designation in the latest city General Plan calls for buildings to be placed closer to the street, such as in the old downtown area. The city suggested a 15-foot setback. O'Reilly wanted an 80-foot setback with parking in the front of the building.

As the staff report put it, "Staff discussed compliance with the Community Center land use design objectives with the applicant and how it can be achieved with this site with a fairly simple modification of their typical pro-typical site plan. However, the applicant has informed staff that this type site design does not work with well with the nature of an O'Reilly store. 

"Staff has provided the applicant site design modification suggestions that would allow them to fairly easily meet the design intent of the Community Center land use category but the applicant did not feel a building orientation that brought the building closer to the street and the parking to side would meet their needs. 

"Staff recommends that the commission deny the major site plan/final development plan due to the following requirement not being met: The proposal is not in conformance with the design intent of the Community Center land use category of the General Plan 2020."


http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/home.oap


• Approved a major site plan for construction of a 13,153-square-feet industrial storage building for CYC Seed Co., a part of Fertizona, at 3085 N. Cessna Ave. in the airport industrial park.

The seed company recently purchased the Atko Building Supply business at that site and has retro-fitted the existing buildings to accommodate its alfa seed coating business.


http://www.fertizona.com/cycseedco.html


Three finalists for east side sewer line project

(Posted Aug. 7, 2014)


You'll find the full request for qualifications, including a map showing how sewer lines in that area tie into each other, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/Complete.pdf


The ranking list is HERE


Six companies have responded to a city request for qualifications for a construction manager at risk to oversee building of a 3.6-mile sewer line east of Interstate 10 that would initially serve the proposed PhoenixMart project but would be upsized to provide capacity for future residential and industrial/commercial growth in the area.

After evaluations of the responses, three of the companies have been asked to appear for later interviews, a city posting says.

Those three are Haydon Building Corp., Achen-Gardner Construction and PCL Construction. The other three are CSW Contractors, Gamey Construction and T&T Construction Inc.

Interview dates are not listed in the posting.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

The overall project, including any land acquisition costs, is projected to cost up to $10 million, the City Council was told during earlier briefings. Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The sewer rate increase recently approved by the City Council is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

The request says the construction manager at risk will "provide preconstruction services up to and including creation of a guaranteed maximum price for construction and then execute construction of the project."

The project is described as "intended to provide for the construction of approximately 21,200 linear feet (3.6 miles) of large-diameter gravity sewer pipeline. The pipeline is tentatively planned to be installed within rights-of-way and/or easements along one of the potential alignments (either Kortsen Road or Florence Boulevard east of I-10). These easements/rights-of-way are to be procured by the city prior to construction. 

"The project will involve jack and bore crossing through existing Arizona Department of Transportation right- of-way for Interstate 10 freeway, the remainder of the project is anticipated to be constructed using typical trenching operations. Several crossings of facilities owned and or operated by the Hohokam Irrigation & Drainage District may also be required. 

"All appurtenant and ancillary work and materials required for the construction of the proposed pipeline are intended to provided by the selected CMAR."

The request for qualifications says responsibilities of the construction manager include:

• Preliminary cost estimating to be used for determination of final line-sizing of the complete alignment.

• Provide input regarding means and methods which may reduce costs and improve constructability.

• Provide for construction phasing and scheduling that minimizes land acquisition costs

• Provide long-lead procurement studies and initiate procurement of long-lead items as

may be directed.

• Participate in permitting processes (with ADOT, the irrigation district, Kinder Morgan natural gas, etc.) 

• Input regarding material selection 

• Provide input regarding alternate solutions/methods which may reduce costs and

improve constructability.

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line on the east side of I-10: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the City Council during a May briefing, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."


Insurance brokerage contract expected to save
money in staff time, make it easier for employees

(Posted Aug. 6, 2014)



You'll find the staff report HERE


Leavitt Group Services of Arizona:

http://www.leavitt.com/About/CompanyOverview.aspx



A new insurance brokerage contract will save Casa Grande money by cutting the time involved in handling paperwork and will make it easier for employees to sign up or change insurance sections, the City Council was told Monday night.

Putting the broker services out to bid is a yearly occurrence for the city.

As the staff report accompanying the agenda item puts it, "Each year the city’s insurance broker enters into insurance premium negotiations so that we can continue to provide quality health care benefits to our employees which meet the ever changing Affordable Care Act mandates while still maintaining affordable premiums. 

"In order to successfully negotiate those premiums, it is essential that we have immediate access to our usage rates, encourage preventative care and offer wellness initiatives that educate and inspire employees to take care of themselves and their families. It is also essential that we have access to legal professionals who specialize in health care law as well as healthy-living specialists in order to meet our goal of a healthy employee base."

Human Resources  Director Dawn Jett told the council that six companies had responded to the city's request, of which three were asked to come for interviews.

Those three, and their bids, were Leavitt Group, $68,400; Lockton Companies, $79,000; Mahoney Group, $52,000.

The others were Arthur Gallagher & Co., $79,200; CBIZ, $80,000; Holmes Murphy, $36,000.

It is not always the case that the lowest bidder is selected. It depends upon which company the city believes will best fill its needs.

In this case, Leavitt Group was chosen, receiving initial approval of a one-year contract. Final approval is expected during the next council meeting.

"The (interview) panel identified Leavitt Group as the top selection, based on their ability to provide us a level of service that the city currently requires," Jett said.

She said that among the company's offerings are that:

• It will provide ongoing utilizations reports on a regular basis.

• It has a team of professional negotiators and a pool of clients which will allow them to negotiate lower insurance premiums.

• It also has in-house wellness physicians and an an in-house legal and compliance staff.

"Finally," Jett said, "Leavitt Group has an on-line open enrollment system that does not require us to hire third-party vendors or purchase a platform system in order to utilize it.

This will eliminate the need for paper enrollment and make the enrollment process much easier and more user friendly for our staff and their dependents.

"In addition, this will save us approximately 120 staff hours per year, which is the time we spend currently doing open enrollment on paper each year."

According to the staff report, "Leavitt currently provides insurance brokerage services to several Arizona municipalities and reference checks were very positive."


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted Aug. 4, 2014)


You will find the agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


These actions were taken by the City Council during Monday night's meeting:


• Because of concerns about possible flooding across the property and adjoining areas and on traffic, tabled requests for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. The delay is to give time to provide the council with additional information.

• Gave initial approval to the request for a zone change to general business to allow a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence. The council was told that construction is expected to be completed this year.

• Gave initial approval to a $68,400 contract for insurance broker services with Leavitt Group Services of Arizona.

• Approved a resolution approving an intergovernmental agreement with Pinal County for leasing of Public Works equipment and/or services.

• Approved a resolution authorizing a delegation agreement with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality giving the city the authority to review and approve projects for water and wastewater infrastructure.

• Approved a resolution to accept a federal grant of up to $100,000 for updating the city airport's layout plan.

• Gave final approval for adoption security and noncompliances fees for City Court.

• Gave final approval to spending $444,806 to rebuild the compactor at the city landfill rather than spending more than $1 million to replace it.


City seeking streetlights maintenance help

(Posted July 31, 2014)


The request is HERE


How to report streetlight and other problems is at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/service-request/



It's much like the lights in or around your house. They tend to burn out -- and usually at the most inconvenient time.

Casa Grande has about 3,600 streetlights in its 104-square-mile boundary, all requiring routine or as-needed work, but doesn't have the staff for continued maintenance.

A request for proposals has been issued seeking a contractor for that work, running from Oct. 1 of this year until Sept. 30, 2019. The responses must be submitted to the city by Sept. 2.

According to the request, "Historically, the streetlights were owned and operated by the parent utility companies. In 1990, the city purchased streetlight facilities from one of the parent utility companies. The city still buys energy from the parent utility company to run the streetlight facilities. 

"There are roughly 3,600 city-owned streetlights in the system, which requires routine and as-needed maintenance. The streetlights are typically present on streetlights poles owned by the city. Some of the streetlights may also be present on parent company electric distribution poles or poles owned by other entities under contract with the city. 

"The city currently does not have the staff and/or equipment to maintain all the streetlight system. Currently, the parent utility company is under a contract to operate and maintain city’s streetlight facilities within its service territory."

Those electric companies include Arizona Public Service and the electrical/irrigation districts.

The request says that in addition to regular maintenance, the winning bidder will provide "services for emergency work, which may include replacement of poles and fixtures associated with damage caused by vehicle collisions, storms, or other events. The city-owned street lights within the public right of way are intended to be covered by the services requested in the scope of this contract.

"Parties agree that street light maintenance services shall include city-owned pole numbering on new or replacement streetlights, customer service/dispatch, night patrols, standard circuit breakers and photocells and spot relamping, where applicable. The city may also need assistance with claims while collecting for damages from other parties who have damaged city streetlight facilities. 

"Additional as-needed city-authorized work may also be required such as emergency repair or replacement of poles and fixtures, replacement or group replacement of non-functional lights with energy efficient lights, i.e. LEDs, and relocation or upgrades of facilities, solar powered lighting, motion sensors, light shielding, etc., concrete work, blacktop work and landscaping restoration associated with pole replacement. 

"Items outside of the scope of streetlight maintenance services include, but are not limited to, underground cable repair and/or replacement, leaning poles and pole painting."


New landfill compactor is more than $1 million,
rebuilding present one is $444,806. Are there
any questions about decision for a rehabbing?

(Posted July 27, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The rebuild cost list is HERE


The total cost breakdown is HERE


The rental terms are HERE



The situation with the expensive compactor at the city landfill is similar to your car's engine -- when it reaches its useful life do you buy a new one or do you have it rebuilt for about half the cost?

The landfill compactor is beyond the recommended useful life of 10,000 hours. To replace it would cost more than a million dollars. To rebuild it, including a contingency to cover any unforeseen problems, would be $444,806, including two months rental of a loaner compactor. The City Council opted for the "second life" rebuild, giving initial approval during its last meeting.

The compactor now has more than 11,200 hours of use, but replacing the steel compaction teeth gave the city another year of life, Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council.

"But it's now reached its point where we need to evaluate whether to go out and purchase a new one or move forward with this rebuild of our existing vehicle," he said. "Staff has gone through the analysis and determined that the cost-effective direction to go is to have this vehicle rebuilt by Caterpillar Empire Equipment."

According to the staff report on the agenda item, "After 10,000 hours of operation, Caterpillar recommends the compactor either be replaced with a new machine or undergo a major rebuild of power train, hydraulics and cab (certified power train plus rebuild) for a second life of operation. The certified rebuild is projected to provide an additional 10,000 hours of operation. The certified rebuild comes with a one year warranty."

The present compactor is needing more and more repairs, Louis said.

"In 2009 it was $12,000 worth of repair costs," he continued. "In 2010 it was $32,000. In 2011 it was only $19,000, not sure why that dip. In 2012 it was $39,000. And well over $40,000 for this last fiscal year in repairs."

The recommendation for the rebuild was based on cost of a replacement, the staff report said, adding that, "The estimated cost for a new Caterpillar 836K compactor with tax is $1,028,300. This includes a discount, estimated trade-in value of the city’s existing compactor and a 10 percent contingency for potential price adjustment," versus a maximum of $444,806 for the rebuild.

Used compactors of the same model are available, but the cost to rebuild them would have to be added to the purchase cost.

The same model, but from 2006 rather than 2009 for the present city compactor, is available from a dealer in Arizona at a cost of $380,000. It has 10,780 hours on it (or 780 more than the recommended useful life) and the condition of the components is listed as good, rather than very good or new.

There's another important cost to any down time, Louis pointed out.

"Anytime this piece of equipment does go down, we call it Mission Critical," he said. "We did come up with what I'll call a conservative cost of having this piece of equipment down.

"We basically looked at our useful life of our landfill, how many cubic yards we have left before we fill that thing up. And we looked at the compaction that is lost when you use the D9 bulldozer that we have out there as a backup piece of equipment. It's about a 55 percent loss in compaction."

Compaction is critical. In simple terms, the less trash is compacted, the quicker the landfill reached capacity.

"We basically took our costs, the revenues that are generated from our cubic yards going into the landfill at today's costs," Louis said.

"For instance, if we go forward with this rebuild and not rent the piece of equipment of equivalent size, the cost would be $471,000.

"This past year, we were down 22 days of operation with repairs on this piece of equipment and that equates to about $216,000 of lost revenue potentially in the landfill at full buildout."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen questioned the 25 percent contingency in the rebuild amount.

Louis replied that, "Basically, Caterpillar has done an evaluation of our piece of equipment but until they start really getting down inside that piece of equipment to see what kind of wear and tear there has been on this hydraulic system, transmission, those types of things.

"They really don't know all the pieces that will need to be replaced in order for them to say this is a second life certified piece of equipment that now has an additional useful life of five years or 10,000 hours plus. So that's where they come up with that additional cost, they just don't know. So we take a very conservative look at that and say what do we think would be worst scenario and that's the $444,806 number that we have."

And if the final estimate comes to more than $444,806?

"If we find ourselves at a point where, oops, we missed something and we're not sure what it's going to cost and it could potentially go over, then, yes, this would come back to City Council on some type of an emergency type request," Louis said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons and Councilman Dick Powell questioned whether there would be an extended warranty, as was the case when the present compactor was purchased in 2009.

"We had a one-year warranty on the new piece of equipment in 2009," Louis responded.  "Built into the price was an additional warranty that we purchased through that purchase price, which was five years or 7,500 hours. Of course, our hours are much higher than that. If you look at the age of our piece of equipment where we're at 11,200 hours, this thing is used from morning to night out there at the landfill, including Saturdays. So this is our workhorse.

"When we originally looked at the new purchase of this equipment in 2009, we did see a benefit and we purchased the extended warranty. However, on a second-life vehicle it's much more expensive. 

"When we started to look at what were the potential risks associated with not having that extended warranty, we could not weigh the cost so we decided on the included one-year warranty. Most of those major components are going to fail during that one-year period. Just like any new car, you can have those major components fail at that time, or at least see where things are starting to track and be able to take the corrective action. We just didn't, we couldn't justify that cost at this time."

The rebuild time is estimated at two months, during which time the city is renting a compactor at a cost of $34,000 a month. If rebuild goes past two months, Caterpillar will cover the cost from then on.

With that high of a rental cost, Councilman Matt Herman said, he'd like to know how much idle  time there would be.

"We get reports every 160 hours of operation," Louis replied. "We get all of those reports from Caterpillar and during the last 160 hours, we used 7.6 hours of idle time. That's 95 percent operating rate. They were surprised at that number, as well.

"Now if you ever visit the landfill -- and I urge you all to come out, it's a great, wonderful place -- they do a lot of interaction with the residents who come out there and do their own dumping. So they're out there explaining where to dump, and of course that takes time. But for the most part, they are operating that piece of equipment from start to finish (of the day).

"You have your post-trip cool down and check out period, which also adds to that idle time, but I think we're very efficient."


Two new City Court fees get initial approval

(Posted July 21, 2014)


You'll find the staff reports for both fees by clicking on the agenda, found at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



Initial approval was given Monday night to two Casa Grande City Court fees aimed at lessening the financial impact on taxpayers from court operations.

The first is a compliance recovery fee of $50 to be assessed against offenders who fail to comply with the orders of the court without good cause. The second is a court security fee of $20 to be assessed when a defendant enters into a time payment contract for the payment of a fine assessed for any criminal or civil offense.


Compliance fee

As the staff report on the compliance fee indicates, "Whenever the court issues an order, such as when the court sentences an offender to fines, probation, jail or a counseling program, the court carries the responsibility to monitor the defendant's behavior and enforce compliance with the court's orders. 

"In order to monitor compliance, the court maintains several thousand files for defendants who have ongoing obligations to the court as a part of their sentences after judgment has been entered. The court must independently review each of these files to ensure compliance with any and all of the court's orders and to take appropriate action for the purpose of enforcement. To that end, the court analyzes all compliance files on a monthly basis.

"When it appears that a defendant has failed to comply with an order, the court issues an order to show cause, which requires the defendant to appear and explain why the defendant violated the order. When the defendant appears, the court conducts a hearing to determine whether there was good cause for the defendant's failure to comply. If the defendant has willfully violated an order, the defendant is in contempt and the court will impose sanctions. In all cases, the court must then determine the appropriate action to ensure compliance in the future.

"The court issues hundreds of orders to show cause every month and conducts dozens of hearings each week in relation to noncompliance with court orders. These efforts demand a great deal of the court's attention, time and resources. The costs of the court's enforcement efforts are paid entirely out of the General Fund, and are therefore borne by taxpayers."


Security fee

The reason for a court security fee, the staff report for that agenda item outlines, is that when the court building was opened in August 2011 security enhancement was a major goal.

"The court utilizes a security guard, an X-ray machine, a magnetometer and a handheld wand," the report says. "Although it is difficult to place a value on the security of the court, each of these security measures carries with it an expense. All of the court's security expenses are currently paid out of the city's General Fund and represent a growing burden on court resources and taxpayer money.

"In 2012, court security screened 31,592 patrons. In 2013, that number increased to 38,436. This number, and all of its associated expenses, will likely continue to increase in 2014."

The first draft of the proposal presented by City Magistrate Christopher O’Neil to the City Council at an earlier session indicated that the fee would apply to all persons using the court. O'Neil later modified that to exclude persons entering the building simply to pay fines or for other routine items.

"That carve out was to exclude those individuals who simply want to mail in or just come by and drop off the payment of a fine, such as a civil traffic fine," O'Neil told the council Monday night.

"Also carved out was those people who excise their right to a hearing or trial, but at that point simply pay their fine and take care of it.

"The goal was to have a carve out that was broad as opposed to narrow in that way and exclude those people who are less of a drain on the court security resources. It is designed to be a cost recovery fee and we wanted to limit that as much as possible to those who … are potentially contributing to those costs."

For those unable to pay, O'Neil said, community service could be an option.

"We have a very robust, and I think very advanced, system for evaluating ability to pay," he said, "and those defendants who have no ability to pay are always authorized to perform community service towards their fines at the time they enter into the time payment contract."


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Gave initial approval to spending $444,806 to rebuild the compactor at the city landfill rather than pay more than $1 million for a replacement.

• Gave initial approval to abandoning excess right of way along the Thornton Road alignment at Sundance RV Park.

• Watched as checks to veterans help groups were presented by Ride for the Warrior, which held a fundraising event earlier this year.


Commercial projects coming to Casa Grande

(Posted July 20, 2014)


The announcement is HERE


The Planning and Zoning Commission will consider requests for more commercial development in the city when it meets Aug. 7.

The requests are:

• Major site plan/final development plan for a proposed 6,972-square-foot O'Reilly Auto Parts store at 1426 E. Florence Blvd.

• Request for a conditional use permit and major site plan for a 3.616-square-foot convenience food restaurant with a drive-thru at 2473 E. Florence Blvd. 

• A major site plan for development of a 6,023-square-foot multi-tenant retail building at 2463 E. Florence Blvd.

(Both are within the commercial area of Mission Royale planned area development.)

•  A major amendment to an approved major site plan to allow the addition of a new industrial warehouse of approximately 15,300 square feet for CYC Seed Co., 3085 N. Cessna Ave.


-:-


Not on the Aug. 7 agenda but in the works are two businesses for the long vacant shopping area at the northwest corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. They are listed as Dollar General and Revolution Gymnasium. Not indication has yet been given as to opening dates.


June jobless rate in Casa Grande at 8.4 percent

(Posted July 17, 2014)


Unemployment in June rose in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

 Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 8.4 percent during June, up from 6.8 during May. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,773 people out of work during June, up from 1,422 for May. 

Part of the increase in Casa Grande and other cities is the normal summer drop in jobs, but by contrast Casa Grande had a 4 percent jobless rate for June 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a June rate of 8.1 percent jobless (11,532 without work), up from 6.8 (9,596) during May. The June 2007 rate was 4.2.

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.7 percent jobless rate for June (363 unemployed), up from 6.5 percent (302) during May. The June 2007 rate was 7.7.

Eloy

12.6 rate for June (504 jobless), up from 10.7 (419) during May. The June 2007 rate was 6.4.

Florence

9.4 rate for June (299 jobless), up from 8.7 during May (274). The June 2007 rate was 4.2.

Maricopa city

7.4 rate for June (1,490 jobless), up from 6.3 during May (1,262). The June 2007 rate was 4.7.


Kortsen interchange public hearing on July 23

(Posted July 16, 2014)


A public open house is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23, to provide information and get public comments on the proposed traffic interchange at Kortsen Road and Interstate 10, the city said.

The meeting will be from 5:30-7 p.m., with a brief presentation at 6 p.m.

"The city of Casa Grande has contracted Jacobs Engineering to conduct a traffic interchange study," the announcement said. "The purpose of the new traffic interchange will be to address projected increases in traffic resulting from population growth, residential development and business development including PhoenixMart."

The announcement said the study will evaluate the potential impact of anticipated growth and development and propose alternatives to help address the increasing traffic demand to and from I-10 in the Florence Boulevard corridor and in eastern Casa Grande.

"Presentation materials regarding the study will be available at the open house and study team representatives will be available to discuss your concerns and answer your questions on a one-on-one basis," the city said. "The studies, to date, have considered traffic demand, environmental concerns and preliminary traffic interchange designs."

Kortsen Road has been chosen because of Arizona Department of Transportation requirements of mileage between interchanges. Because there is an interchange at Florence Boulevard, another at Cottonwood Lane would not be allowed.

"Public input is an important part of the process and comments provided will help the study team fully understand public issues and make informed decisions regarding the study," the city said.

The city said a study website has been set up at www.casagrandeaz.gov/KortsenRoadInterchange to provide further information and details.

"If you are unable to attend, you can send your comments via email to michael.okamoto@jacobs.com," the announcement said. "Please subject your message as I-10/Kortsen Road Traffic Interchange Public Meeting 1."  

Comments are due by Friday, Aug. 8.


UPDATE:
The PhoenixMart logo statue request was approved Tuesday night, July 15, by the Board of Adjustment with only member Gordon Beck in opposition.

PhoenixMart logo statue request delayed a week

(Posted July 8, 2014)



Revised staff report for July 15 is
HERE

Original agenda is HERE

Original staff report is HERE

Artist concept is HERE

The logo in color HERE


Because of confusion over the wording in accompanying documents about previously approved monument signs, raising the question of whether any action would be approving more signs, and questions about the the height of a PhoenixMart logo statue in relation to the grade of the highway in front, action on the request for the statue was set over for a week Tuesday night by the Board of Adjustment.

That meeting will begin at 6 p.m., July 15, in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Although the suggestion was made Tuesday night that wording for approval of the 14-foot logo statue could be changed to clarify questions and confusion, the board opted for the delay.

The statue would be part of the entranceway to the proposed PhoenixMart, which would be north of Florence Boulevard east of Toltec Buttes Road.

PhoenixMart has said that the logo statue is needed "to enhance the visual intent of vibrancy and brand identification" of the project.

Wording in the staff report said, "The landmark includes the 14' PhoenixMart logo, two monument signs and landscaping. The proposed entry monument wall signs are 12 feet tall and 52 feet wide."

PhoenixMart has submitted a comprehensive sign plan to the city for its review. The city is also processing a final landscape plan and the final development plan/major site plan.


Hobbs zoning denial appeal to be heard Aug. 4

AUG. 6 UPDATE: The city said Hobbs has withdrawn her request for a zone change.


(Posted July 14, 2014)


The public notice is HERE


The Hobbs zone change staff report is HERE




An appeal by Jan Hobbs against the Planning Commission decision July 1 to deny a zone change request from single-family residential to commercial office to allow a real estate office at 1101 E. Sunset Drive will be heard by the City Council on Aug. 4 a public notice posted today by the city indicates.

The Hobbs site, with a 1,959-square-foot single-family home and an 832-square-foot guest house, is now zoned for residential, leading to Hobbs' request for a zone change to commercial office. 

The hearing will be during the regular City Council meeting beginning at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Also to be heard are:

• A request for a zone change to general business to allow a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence.

• Requests for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. 


No more one-size-fits-all with manhole repair;
contract calls for closer individual evaluations

(Posted July 13, 2014)


The staff report for initial approval is HERE. Final approval came during the next City Council meeting.


The pricing list is HERE.


Casa Grande has about 280 miles of sewer lines. Learn what you can do to help keep them clean and efficient:

http://youtu.be/Zpi8jtChoh4


Scroll down for earlier story on sewerlines cleaning contract.




The $400,000 manhole repair and rehabilitation contract given final approval during the last City Council meeting calls for a new system of deciding what needs to be taken care of and how among the city's 4,500 sewer manholes.

"Recently, we went through an evaluation of our manhole rehabilitation program and determined that the process that we were following, which was a one-size-fits-all, just wasn't working, we're weren't accomplishing what we had intended to accomplish with our maintenance efforts," Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council.

"So we did go through a process of evaluating job order contracts. And what this does, is it gives staff the opportunity to work with the contractor and have a list of maintenance items that we can do, based on the evaluation of each individual manhole. That'll give us more flexibility to work and get the most benefit from we're spending out there for our maintenance now."

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "Historically the program has been focused on utilizing a limited scope of means and methods for rehabilitation of manholes with minor to moderate damage. Manholes with potentially significant damage or deterioration were often not adequately addressed, as the means and methods were inappropriate to rehabilitate them.

"To better identify and rehabilitate damaged manholes, the program has been modified to provide improvements throughout the program. These include improvements in inspection methods and utilization of a qualified contractor able to provide a wide variety of rehabilitation techniques as may be appropriate for any situation on a job-order basis."

Louis said that when he began with the city eight years ago there was an aggressive program for repair and rehabilitation.

"Again, it was a one-size-fits-all and we're just taking a fresh look at that," he added. "With the new job order contracting opportunities it does give us that flexibility to really look at the most cost-effective way to maintain the system."

Councilman Dick Powell asked what percentage of the city manholes could be covered by $400,000.

"It really varies, and not a very easy question to answer," Louis responded. "With a typical rehab of a manhole with our past process, which is coating of the inside of it, it's about $2,500 per manhole. But some manholes, because of the increased deterioration in the condition of them, we can spent up to four or five thousand per manhole. Some we can do less efforts, in the neighborhood of $1,000 or $1,500. It just depends."

The contract calls for the city to go through an evaluation of each manhole with the contractor to come up with the best plan.

Powell asked how long repair and rehabilitation of manholes lasts.

"It will vary, depending on the part of the system that it's in the type of construction that was used originally," Louis replied, "but we should be looking at 10 to 15 years before you have to go back in and do anything to that manhole."

Mayor Bob Jackson noted that, "Just doing the arithmetic on the numbers, it sounds like you could probably do somewhere around 150 manholes. I think it important to understand that you're fixing about 100, 150 of them and there are probably several thousand in the system, so it will take awhile."

As Councilman Matt Herman saw it, "This is one of those unglamorous things, but it's one of our biggest assets, following our roads. People don't realize that maintenance is so important on it, because if you let it go and then you're stuck with a million-dollar bill one year instead of keeping up with everything."

Louis said the rule of thumb in Public Works "is that every one dollar you spend on maintenance saves you about $10 on replacement."

Answering a question from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons about repair times, Louis said, "Each manhole is unique, the environmental conditions that it exists in. If we've got areas where there's high H2S obviously that deterioration is going to increase and is going to do more damage. We will take a period of time to go through a detailed evaluation of each manhole before we make a decision on what process we're going to us. That will add some time, but in the big scheme of things it won't really matter."

It has been pointed out during discussions about sewer line cleaning that H2S is hydrogen sulfide, which is corrosive and which also causes the smell from sewers.

"We'll go through the evaluation process and then we'll generate those work orders internally to the contractor and they'll perform based on the scope and fees identified in these work orders," Louis said. "And we'll do those multiple times. We'll pick an area, identify, move forward, go and evaluate the next area, move forward and just track what our fund balances are as we move forward."

The contract calls for:

• Performance of manhole evaluations/assessments – investigation and reporting of conditions of existing manholes and recommendations for appropriate repairs.

• Cleaning of existing manholes, including removal and disposal of debris.

• Repair of existing concrete substrate and/or preparation for coating.

• Application of approved system designed for structural rehabilitation of concrete

manholes.

• Application of an approved manhole coating system.

• Installation/application of structural liner system.

• Repairs to concrete manhole base/bench.

• Removal and replacement of existing manhole, including surface restoration.

• Removal and replacement of frame, cover, and concrete collar.

• Pavement replacement.

• Traffic control plans and setups.


Pine-Sol just won't cut it for cleaning
Casa Grande's miles of sewer piping

Posted Feb. 2, 2014)


The memo on the manhole failures is HERE


Maps of the sewer cleaning areas are HERE


Sewer cleaning staff report is HERE



Sorry, Pine-Sol.

Your product you say has been "cleaning what stinks since 1929" won't cut it when it comes to Casa Grande's sewer pipes, both for smell and causes of corrosion.

Besides, with Casa Grande having 280 miles of sewer, 4,500 manholes and nine lift stations it would take truckloads of your product and umpteen hours of time to trickle it down the openings.

The city has opted to hire Ancon for this year's sewer cleaning and has posted a request for qualifications for contractors to rehabilitate manholes.

The cleaning and rehabilitation of manholes is a must for the city, shown by a $62,450 emergency spending agenda item for Monday night's City Council meeting to replace eight of them along the railroad tracks between Thornton Road and Cottonwood Lane. They have failed, the staff report says, because of hydrogen sulfide corrosion and stress caused by heavy farming equipment and Salt River Project equipment used in installing a power line.

The sewer line cleaning, to begin in early March for about six months, will cover 138,000 linear feet of line at a cost of $59,604. That's a bit more than 26 miles, or if you're a horse racing fan a bit more than 200 furlongs.

(TRIVIA: The furlong wasn't always just an arcane unit of measure that horseracing fans gabbed about; it once had significance as the length of the furrow a team of oxen could plow in a day. In 1592, the English Parliament set about determining the length of the mile and decided that each one should be made up of eight furlongs. Since a furlong was 660 feet, we ended up with a 5,280-foot mile.)

Anyway, back to sewers.

The total amount of the contract is up to $142,000, The staff report says that allows for cleaning the 138,175 linear feet of pipeline "and approximately 225,000 linear feet of additional gravity sewers can be cleaned under this project within the remaining budget available for this project. This additional work shall be evaluated and prioritized by the Public Works Department as funding allows."

The importance of cleaning, the staff report says, is that it will reduce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels, both in the lines and at the sewage treatment plant.

"This reduction in H2S levels will reduce the adverse impact that high concentrations of H2S can have on the collection system (pipelines, manholes, and lift stations) as well as the odor control system equipment at the plant," it says. "It will also help reduce the complaints from residents regarding sewer odors throughout the city. We are using a contractor for the large diameter sewer as the city does not have the proper equipment to do this work at this time."

The City Council has previously been told that the equipment for cleaning the large lines is so expensive that it is not cost effective to buy it.

That hydrogen sulfide in the lines not only creates odors, but does nasty stuff to the manholes. The H2S, helped by age and stormwater flow, weakens the structure.

That was a leading cause of the failures of the eight manholes along the railroad tracks, leading to the $62,450 repair bill on Monday's City Council agenda.

A memo from city engineer Terrence McKeon explains it this way:

"Recently it was discovered that manholes on the 18-inch PVC sewer line which runs parallel to the UPRR west of Thornton are very badly deteriorated and have suffered almost total structural failure. The current condition of these manholes leaves them subject to immediate and imminent danger of collapse and also poses the threat of plugging the existing sewerline completely by falling debris. This existing sewer line and manholes are approximately six feet in depth. 

"It had been noted previously that these manholes were in poor condition, and it was planned to address these under the annual rehabilitation program. Recent activity by SRP in constructing their new overhead high-voltage transmission lines appears to have placed excessive loading on these manholes, thereby causing unanticipated structural failure of these manholes. 

"This pipeline is believed to have been constructed in 1985. The concrete of the existing manholes and bases has suffered severe damage from sulfuric acid as a result of high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) throughout the 28-plus-year life of the pipeline."

The full memo is HERE

PhoenixMart logo statue request delayed a week

(Posted July 8, 2014)


Revised staff report for July 15 is HERE    

Original agenda is HERE

Original staff report is HERE

Artist concept is HERE


Because of confusion over the wording in accompanying documents about previously approved monument signs, raising the question of whether any action would be approving more signs, and questions about the the height of a PhoenixMart logo statue in relation to the grade of the highway in front, action on the request for the statue was set over for a week Tuesday night by the Board of Adjustment.

That meeting will begin at 6 p.m., July 15, in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

Although the suggestion was made Tuesday night that wording for approval of the 14-foot logo statue could be changed to clarify questions and confusion, the board opted for the delay.

The statue would be part of the entranceway to the proposed PhoenixMart, which would be north of Florence Boulevard east of Toltec Buttes Road.

PhoenixMart has said that the logo statue is needed "to enhance the visual intent of vibrancy and brand identification" of the project.

Wording in the staff report said, "The landmark includes the 14' PhoenixMart logo, two monument signs and landscaping. The proposed entry monument wall signs are 12 feet tall and 52 feet wide."

PhoenixMart has submitted a comprehensive sign plan to the city for its review. The city is also processing a final landscape plan and the final development plan/major site plan.


City property taxes remain the same this year

(Posted July 7, 2014)


Casa Grande's primary and secondary property tax rates for the fiscal year that began July 1 were approved Monday night by the City Council, remaining at 99.99 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation for the primary rate and 63.08 cents per hundred as the secondary, both the same as last year.

Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council that the primary tax will raise about $3,251,900, which goes to the city General Fund and can be used for any city purpose.

The secondary tax, he said, will raise about $2,110,300 and can be used only to pay off voter-authorized bonds.

The combined tax rate will be $1.63 per hundred, raising about $5.4 million, Sandstrom said, which is about 7 percent of the city's total operational revenue.

"Due to declining assessed valuations, that rate of 99.99 cents per hundred actually will bring in $14,000 less this year than it did in the prior year," Sandstrom said. 

"Our assessed valuation has leveled off this current fiscal year, it dropped less than 1 percent.

Since fiscal year 2011 we have had a 27 percent drop in our assessed valuation, so it's good to see that it's bottoming out and holding steady and maybe we'll start to see that go up."

Sandstrom pointed out that of the overall property tax that residents will receive from Pinal County, "only 11 percent of that property tax is because of the city tax rates. The school districts comprise about 55 percent of the typical county bill," with the rest being other taxing agencies.


Will community center action pick up the pace?

(Posted July 7, 2014)


On again, off again discussions about building a multigenerational community recreation center seem to be on again.

Building of a center was among bond issues approved by city voters in 2006, but with the stipulation that it would be the final project of the issue, which included a new public safety facility, fire station, modernization of the downtown library and Len Colla Center and improvements at the city golf course.

Land on the west side of Peart Road south of Kortsen Road has been donated by the Gilbert family.

The city has said several times that while it has the money from the bond issue to build the center, at a cost of $12 million to $16 million, the hangup is that there would be no money to run it without a city taxpayers subsidy that could run between $200,000 to $400,000 yearly.

At the end of Monday night's City Council meeting when members give brief reports, Councilman Ralph Varela said there have been discussions during council informational briefings "on how to become more creative in terms of getting that multigenerational facility back on track and coming up with a couple of good options and trying to put something back into action within the next six months."

Varela gave no details.

Councilman Dick Powell said, "We talked about the multigenerational recreational center and are really hopeful that we can find a partner so that we can afford to do that.

"I know where we are financially right now as a city we couldn't go out and hire new employees when we have ones that had to settle for a 1 percent raise this year.

"But I think that if we continue to look and try to find that partner that can come in and work with us on that, I think it would be a wonderful idea and I hope it does come to fruition."

Powell offered no further details of the discussions.

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Delayed until the next meeting an ordinance accepting a bid of $444,806 for rebuilding the compactor at the city landfill.

• Approved community partnership allocations of $75,000 to Access Arizona, $43,500 to Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, $39,150 to Casa Grande Main Street, $34,000 to Casa Grande Valley Historical Society, $20,000 to Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority and $100,000 to Boys and Girls Club of Casa Grande Valley.

• Approved requests to appoint City Court Administrator Dyani Juarez to a two-year term as deputy city magistrate and reappoint Bob Mitchell and Michael Beers to two-year terms as deputies.

• Appointed Frank Ricci to the Fire Personnel Retirement Board.

• Accepted a $19,785 state grant for the city victims' assistance program.

• Gave final approval of a $438,400 yearly contract for professional maintenance at the city golf course.

• Gave final approval of a $400,000 contract for rehabilitation of various manholes in the city.

• Gave final approval of updates to the city building, health and safety codes.


Preliminary plat for PhoenixMart subdividing OK'd;
more requests coming soon, P&Z Commission told

(Posted July 2, 2014)


The staff report, with details and conditions of approval, is HERE



The proposed PhoenixMart international wholesale sales showroom project two and a half miles east of Interstate 10 took another step forward Tuesday night as the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plat allowing parent company AZ Sourcing to subdivide 234 acres of the 585-acre site into three parcels for initial development.

As Senior Planner Leila Demaree told the commission, lot number one, 129 acres, would be for the PhoenixMart building itself. Lot two, 15 acres, would be for a future high-density residential development. Lot three, 39 acres, would be for a hotel.

More actions will come soon for PhoenixMart, which is bounded by Florence Boulevard on the south, Cottonwood Lane on the north and Overfield and Signal Peak roads on the sides, Demaree said.

"After the approval of this preliminary plat, the three lots will go to the City Council for final plat approval," she said. "Also, the major site plan for lots one, two and three will be coming forward to the Planning Commission.

"The PhoenixMart major site plan, final development plan, is already in the pipeline and hopefully in the next couple of months it will be brought before the Planning Commission for your action.

"Staff is also reviewing the final landscape plan for phase one, and it will come with the final development plan. Lastly, staff is also reviewing a comprehensive sign plan for phase one."

PhoenixMart will be before the Board of Adjustment on July 8 to request approval to allow a 14-foot sculpture logo, about 154 square feet, prior to approval of the comprehensive sign plan.

Demaree pointed out to the commission that the traffic analysis found that two traffic signals will be required along Florence Boulevard as part of the PhoenixMart work.

"One of the signal lights required is at the intersection of Toltec Buttes Road and Florence Boulevard and the second will be at Hacienda Road intersection and Florence Boulevard," she said.

"The light off of Toltec Buttes Road will be fully financed by the PhoenixMart developer. The second traffic light will be financed by two development entities. PhoenixMart will be responsible for 25 percent at the intersection of Hacienda Road and Florence. The rest of the cost will be paid through the established Mission Royale Community Facilities District."

With the progress toward development, commission member Joel Braunstein brought up the question of fire protection.

"Way back when we first considered PhoenixMart the question of a fire department was brought up, talking about phasing in the fire department," he said. "Is the fire coverage adequate for this phase right now?"

Demaree said the nearest fire station is Station 2, east of Lowe's on Florence Boulevard, although there would eventually be another station east of the interstate as development grows.

"As far as I know, there is no concern from the Fire Department covering that area," she said.

Jeremy Schoenfelder, representing AZ Sourcing, told the commission that there are regular meetings with the Fire Department. "I can't quote minutes, but they were talking about response times at the last meeting, so I know that they're well aware of what the situation is," he said.

Schoenfelder pointed out that the the city will be working with an outside consultant to determine fire safety requirements at the main PhoenixMart building, which will be about 1.7 million square feet in size.

Commission member Brett Benedict asked what progress is being made on an agreement with Electrical District 2 to provide power to the site.

"Actually, we're progressing," Schoenfelder said. "I can't say that we have a final agreement with them yet. We've had a few back and forths, to be perfectly honest, but I think we're right about at the end. We've worked with them from a timing perspective, we've worked them to be able to order things ahead of finalizing agreements or right at finalizing agreements to try to mitigate time issues as much as possible. But I can't sit in front of you here today and say we have a finalized agreement. I do believe we're close, though."

Commission Chairman Jeff Lavender asked for a best guess as to when PhoenixMart might be open.

"I can't give a specific date for that because of the offsite issues that did go into that," Schoenfelder responded. "The building itself is, I'll say, the least of our concerns from a timing perspective and the outside utilities are more of a critical path for us. Working through that is going to dictate time more than anything else.

"From a construction perspective, we expect to be doing major site work in fall of this year. We already have a little bit of, I'll call it mini work, as we speak and we expect to be able to keep work going on. We want to make sure that everybody understands that we're continuing to move forward and progressing to be able to go full bore.

"My best guess at this point would be late 2015 or early 2016, but to be any more accurate than that would be a guess at this point."


Request for office in residential area denied

(Posted July 1, 2014)


You'll find the agenda at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Clicking on staff reports on the page will bring up supporting documents.


The Planning and Zoning Commission took the following actions during a three and a half hour meeting Tuesday night:

• Denied a request from Jan Hobbs for an insurance business office in a home at 1101 E. Sunset Drive, just east of Trekell Road. The site, with a 1,959-square-foot single-family home and an 832-square-foot guest house, is now zoned for residential, leading to Hobbs' request for a zone change to commercial office. The denial allows Hobbs to appeal the decision to the City Council. 

• Approved a conditional use permit for a Valero gasoline station and market, along with a car wash, on the north side of Florence Boulevard west of the junction with Camino Mercado, which would be extended to the north of Florence. The commission also sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council for a zone change from urban ranch to general business and a favorable recommendation for a major site plan. Commission member Mike Henderson, saying he believed the site plan presentation did not contain enough information, voted against. Also approved was a preliminary plat for the site.

• Sent a favorable recommendation to the City Council for major amendments to the 97-acre Santa Cruz Crossing mixed-used project at the southeast corner of Trekell and Rodeo roads. The original planned area development was approved in 2006, but languished during the economic downturn. The latest proposal includes adding an assisted living facility as a permitted use, removing an office area, relocating the high-density single-family area further south on the property and reclassifying it as "senior patio homes," adding a two-story senior apartment complex and adding a community center.

• At the request of PhoenixMart's parent company, AZ Sourcing, approved a preliminary plat to subdivide to create three lots on 234 acres of the 585-acre site, located between Overfield and Signal Peak roads, north of Florence Boulevard, south of Cottonwood Lane. The proposed lots would be used for the development of the PhoenixMart site, a mixed-use site  and a high density residential site, the staff report says.

• Approved a conditional use permit for a 1,904-square-foot mobile home on property at 3244 E. Cornman Road. The area is zoned as rural ranch, which permits mobile homes if a conditional use permit is approved.


July/August edition of City Beat now online

(Posted July 1, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The July/August 2014 edition of City Beat is now available online. 

In this issue you will find information about:

• Public meeting regarding proposed Kortsen/I-10 traffic interchange.

• Casa Grande municipal enhancement project.

• Railroad art plaza in downtown Casa Grande.

• Summer fire service camp.

• And much more.


http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/JulyAugust2014-Web-Interactive.pdf


City survey wants your opinions on recreation 
programs, how it communicates with citizens

(Posted June 30, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


How do you connect with us?  The city of Casa Grande is conducting two surveys this summer to better serve its residents in the areas of recreation and communication.

Residents who complete the surveys will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win two movie tickets.

The results from this survey will help the city improve its marketing/communication efforts and provide valuable feedback for future recreational programs in Casa Grande.

The online surveys take about 10 minutes each to complete and will be available online until July 30.  Your input is important to us.  Please take a moment to complete the surveys.


The recreation survey is at

https://survey.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9Y4TgCqCYmS84MB


The communication survey is at

https://survey.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9Zz7HrbxnDqA6SF


City seeking construction manager to oversee
east side sewer line to PhoenixMart, other areas

(Posted June 29, 2014)


You'll find the full request for qualifications, including a map showing how sewer lines in that area tie into each other, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/Complete.pdf


 Casa Grande has issued a request for qualifications for a construction manager at risk to oversee building of a 3.6-mile sewer line east of Interstate 10 that would initially serve the proposed PhoenixMart project but would be upsized to provide capacity for future residential and industrial/commercial growth in the area.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

The overall project, including any land acquisition costs, is projected to cost up to $10 million, the City Council was told during earlier briefings. Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The sewer rate increase recently approved by the City Council is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

The deadline for answers to the request for qualifications is July 23.

The request says the construction manager at risk will "provide preconstruction services up to and including creation of a guaranteed maximum price for construction and then execute construction of the project."

The project is described as "intended to provide for the construction of approximately 21,200 linear feet (3.6 miles) of large-diameter gravity sewer pipeline. The pipeline is tentatively planned to be installed within rights-of-way and/or easements along one of the potential alignments (either Kortsen Road or Florence Boulevard east of I-10). These easements/rights-of-way are to be procured by the city prior to construction. 

"The project will involve jack and bore crossing through existing Arizona Department of Transportation right- of-way for Interstate 10 freeway, the remainder of the project is anticipated to be constructed using typical trenching operations. Several crossings of facilities owned and or operated by the Hohokam Irrigation & Drainage District may also be required. 

"All appurtenant and ancillary work and materials required for the construction of the proposed pipeline are intended to provided by the selected CMAR."

The request for qualifications says responsibilities of the construction manager include:

• Preliminary cost estimating to be used for determination of final line-sizing of the complete alignment.

• Provide input regarding means and methods which may reduce costs and improve constructability.

• Provide for construction phasing and scheduling that minimizes land acquisition costs

• Provide long-lead procurement studies and initiate procurement of long-lead items as

may be directed.

• Participate in permitting processes (with ADOT, the irrigation district, Kinder Morgan natural gas, etc.) 

• Input regarding material selection 

• Provide input regarding alternate solutions/methods which may reduce costs and

improve constructability.

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line on the east side of I-10: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the City Council during a May briefing, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."


Unemployment rate up slightly throughout area

(Posted June 19, 2014)


Unemployment in May rose just slightly in Casa Grande and in other area cities, statistics posted Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show.

Casa Grande had a jobless rate of 6.9 percent during May, up from 6.7 during April. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,432 people out of work during May, up from 1,393 for April. 

Casa Grande had a 3.3 percent jobless rate for May 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

Pinal County had a May rate of 6.9 percent jobless (9,606 without work), up from 6.5 (9,147) during April. 

In the past, statistics from the state included unincorporated areas and Indian communities.

The state has now posted this notice: "Estimates for unincorporated cities and towns have been discontinued." The site refers users to outdated federal census statistics.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.5 percent jobless rate for May (302 unemployed), up from 6.2 percent (288) during April. 

Eloy

10.7 rate for May (420 jobless), up from 10.2 (400) during April. 

Florence

8.7 rate for May (276 jobless), up from 8.4 during April (266). 

Maricopa city

6.4 rate for May (1,265 jobless), up from 6.1 during April (1,219).


Emergency Evergreen irrigation repairs approved;
the question remains as to who will pay the costs

(Posted June 18, 2014)


The staff report, with cost breakdowns, is HERE


The 1928 Evergreen deed restriction is HERE


The 1986 Evergreen ordinance is HERE


The request for cost quote is HERE


Addendum to the cost quote request is HERE



The City Council has passed emergency legislation to spend up to $60,000 to repair the irrigation system in the Evergreen Historic District, about a three week process.

The question, though, is who is going to pay for it -- the 25 to 27 users or city taxpayers as a whole?

(The staff report in one place says 27 users, in another place 25.)

When Evergreen was platted in 1928 north and east of City Hall, one of the deed restrictions said, "All lot owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises; and all lots shall be deemed to be of equal size in ascertaining the pro rata share."

In 1986, the city passed an ordinance making that official, setting out the assessments and how they would be paid.

"Assessments are designed to recover large costs to the district which occur on a irregular or unpredictable schedule," that ordinance says. "Examples of such costs are repair and replacement of the pump and vehicle used in providing the service. Assessments shall be divided equally among all users of the service."

However, at the moment there is no clear explanation of what that 1986 ordinance really means.

"Our intent is come back either at the next meeting (July 7) or the following meeting (July 21) and research the ordinance and what the intent was behind that ordinance and then also the various options (for paying)," City Manager Jim Thompson said.

Three financing proposals are being bandied about, according to the staff report for the repairs, approved during Monday night's council meeting:

"Option A – Similar to the repairs completed in 2002, the cost of repairs are shared equally among the 25 remaining flood irrigation customers/users.

"Option B – Half of the costs of repairs are split equally amongst the 25 remaining flood irrigation customers/users, and the remaining balance is funded by the City Council contingency fund (which has a balance of $250,000).

"Option C – 100 percent of the cost of repairs are funded by the council contingency fund."

Part of the study before the matter is brought back before the council, Thompson said, would be the feasibility of forming a taxing district for irrigation users, whether the repairs would be billed to users all at once or spread over time, and other district questions.

"Immediately, of course, is to get the well operational," Thompson said. "We're probably three weeks out before we can achieve that. We're in the heat of the summer and so it's imperative because of the size and the investment in the trees in this historic district that we get that up and running."

The irrigation system has been down since March. On April 1, Councilman Dick Powell asked that the repairs be hurried up, citing what he said were complaints he had received.

The staff report gives details of what's happened since March, but highlights by Community Services Director Bill Schwind at Monday's meeting include:

"We did some assessment through the month of March trying to figure out how extensive that damage was," Schwind said.

"We figured if we were going to fix the pump and motor, we might as well take a look at the well itself, as it had aged over time."

The council was told that a video camera was lowered into the 280-foot-deep well, showing damage to the casing.

"We did run into another item related to the repair situation and that is the age of the electrical component that runs the well," Schwind said. "It's not currently up to current code, so we had to address that as well."

We accumulated a fee of a little over $51,000 as far as the repair goes.

"There are still some unknowns there relative to how we want to maintain the accessibility and the service of that pump, and so in the budget request this evening we're asking for an amount not to exceed $60,000. That gives us a little bit of a contingency as the repairs go on."

The vote to immediately make available up to $60,000 was unanimous, with Powell recusing himself because he lives in the district.


Home foreclosure excess proceeds list posted

(Posted June 17, 2014)


Pinal County issued this press release today:                                            

 

Pinal County Treasurer Dodie Doolittle is pleased to announce that her office has a webpage dedicated to listing all excess proceeds from real estate foreclosure sales within the county. 

Excess proceeds have been a hot topic on television and radio ads since the downturn of the housing market beginning in 2007. The excess proceeds come from a sale of a house in foreclosure by a banking institution. If the amount of the sale exceeds what was owed on the house at the time of foreclosure, the former owner may be entitled to those funds. An effort to contact the property owner is difficult as people move out of the area and the U.S. Postal Service forwarding information expires. 

"We have been receiving hundreds of calls on this subject," Doolittle said. "There are companies that offer these lists for a fee to a client. But this is public information and people have the right to know without paying a fee to a third party."

The website is 

https://treasurer.pinalcountyaz.gov/ParcelInquiry/Main/ExcessProceeds

The page will give people links to the applicable statute, packets for filing for release of the funds and case searches. The "View Excess Proceeds Report" will generate a listing of all currently held funds in alphabetical order by last name.




MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE

The city budget and the $2.75-a-month increase in the residential sewer rate, outlined in the story below, were approved Monday night by the CIty Council, ending a meeting that began at 6:30 p.m. and ended at 10:15 p.m.

At the motion of Councilman Karl Montoya, however, the sewer rate increase would be for one year instead of the two-year cycle in the initial proposal, giving the council the opportunity to again study the situation during next year's budget process.

The rate increase is effective Aug. 1, showing up on September's billings.


Public hearing Monday night before City Council
votes on new Casa Grande budget, sewer rates

(Posted June 12, 2014)


You'll find a budget overview HERE


An plain English budget overview from a May 1 City Council briefing on proposals is HERE

(Note that the $137,564,500 listed for the budget was before the carryovers from this fiscal year's budget were added, bringing the final total to $170,744,900.)


You'll find budget statistics and other information HERE


You'll find the property tax rates chart HERE


You'll find the personnel costs, including benefits, HERE


The monthly sewer rate increase chart is HERE


The sewer rate staff report is HERE

(It includes mention of water services rates. Those are for a small city-owned water company, not Arizona Water Co., the private operation that serves Casa Grande.)



It will be a two-part action Monday night as the City Council votes on the final $170,744,900 Casa Grande budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

As part of the regular 7 p.m. meeting, the council will conduct a public hearing, allowing anyone in the community to comment about the budget or the proposed $2.75 a month residential sewer rate increase, also part of the budget.

(It should be noted that the sewer rate increase is to fund the sewage treatment plant and associated debt and other expenses. It has nothing to do with the extension of a sewer line to the proposed PhoenixMart project on the east side of Interstate 10.)

Following the meeting, the council will immediately meet again in special session to vote on the budget.

You'll find complete budget and sewer rate information at the links above, but main points of the budget are:

• No increase in the primary or secondary city property tax rates, remaining at 99.99 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation on the primary rate and 63.08 on the secondary rate. Those rates are to be ratified during the July 7 City Council meeting.

• No decrease in levels of city services.

• A 1 percent pay raise for city employees.

"We did include a 1 percent employee pay increase," Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council during a June 2 briefing on the tentative budget. 

"As council's aware, on the proposed budget there was no increase for employees included in there. At council's recommendation we did relook at that and we have included a 1 percent pay increase. 

"We have yet to determine when and how that would be implemented, but we do have the funding in there for the pay increase."

• The General Fund reserve is funded.

"We have a fully funded General Fund reserve of $21.4 million," Sandstrom told the council. "That's the equivalent of six months expenditures for the adopted budget."


Other actions from Monday's City Council meet

In other action Monday night, the council:

• Passed an emergency measure to pay up to $60,000 to repair the pump and well for the Evergreen Irrigation District. Whether or not residents using the irrigation service will pay part of the cost has yet to be determined. Councilman Dick Powell, an Evergreen resident, recused himself from the vote. Repairs should take about three weeks, the council was told.

• Gave final approval of a letter of intent and authorization for a development agreement with Tractor Supply Co. for a major distribution center here. Councilman Powell recused himself from the vote.

• Tabled creating a City Court security fee and security fund and institute a court compliance recovery fee, paid by persons ignoring previous court orders or appearances. Council members said they wished more information about the proposals.

• Gave initial approval to adoption of updated city building and residential codes.

• Gave initial approval to a $438,400 contract for professional maintenance and service at the city golf course.

• Accepted the proposal from Mary Ann and David Yandell of the CookEJar to operate food and beverage services at the newly renovated main library.

• Gave initial approval to a $400,000 contract for manholes rehabilitation.


Dental office setback, Acacia Landing monument
signs variances approved by Board of Adjustment 

JUNE 10 UPDATE:

Both requests were approved during Thursday night's Board of Adjustment meeting. The Planning and Zoning Commission will also hear aspects of the requests.


(Posted June 6, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and full staff reports for both cases at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/boa/


A request for a variance on how far back from Florence Boulevard a new dental building needs to be, along with a request to waive regulations on the number of monument entrance signs Acacia Landing can have are on the agenda when the Board of Adjustment meets Tuesday.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

In the first case, Casa Grande Family Dentistry is requesting a variance for a new 3,100-square-foot building building at 1569 E. Florence Boulevard to be set back 10 feet from the street rather than the 35 feet city regulations require.

"Several issues related to the property have been a hindrance to the development of the site," the staff report says, including:

• The property has an irregular shaped lot. 

• The lot has substandard lot width. 

• The Fire Department needs an unobstructed 20-foot circulation drive through the property.

"Staff has determined that the substandard lot width is the result of the final plat that was approved by the city in a lot reconfiguration that occurred in 1992. The unusual lot configuration is a result of a previous lot split from previous owners of the property.

"Without the variance, the dental office building would have to change its current design to a smaller floor plan or increase the building to a two-story building."

The second case regards the monument signs. City regulations now allow only one non-illuminated sign per parcel, including subdivisions such as Acacia Landing that were not platted as a planned area developments with different requirements.

The monument sign cannot be more than two square feet. The request is for three monument signs of 12 square feet each, located at Colorado and 11th streets, McMurray Boulevard and Pottebaum Avenue and Pottebaum and Ninth Street.

"The variance is being requested because the Acacia Landing Homeowners Association has stated that they are unable to enhance their identity as other communities in the Casa Grande," the staff report says.


Tractor Supply Co. distribution center would again
boost CG, economic development director says

(Posted June 9, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier story.


So, what would a huge, $70-million distribution center for Tractor Supply Co. do for Casa Grande other than provide 260-plus jobs.

Answering that question from Councilman Ralph Varela before the City Council gave initial approval Monday to authorizing the city manager to finalize a development agreement with the company, Economic Development Director Richard Wilkie said, "One of our key industries is distribution centers and to have yet another Fortune 500 company -- Wal-Mart and now Tractor Supply Co. -- coming into the community it also puts us on the map yet again.

"What this does is when you have two Fortune 500 companies, distribution centers, that are targeting their distribution for the area of the Southwest United States, California, Arizona, Nevada, even Utah, New Mexico, this adds one more reason why people should be considering Casa Grande when they're looking to establish their West Coast distribution centers."

In the past, Wilkie said, companies have looked at the West Valley area around Phoenix.

"When we have another company that locates here, they may continue to consider the West Valley, but they're going to look down here, too," he continued. 

"And when they see that we have the I-8, the 10, the double main line rail line by Union Pacific which Phoenix doesn't have, they have trunk lines that's an additional benefit that our community has, and the affordable land, you have shovel-ready sites, we have infrastructure that, through the foresight of the City Council, city management in establishing and developing our wastewater treatment system, it's just another positive reason, really good reason for people to come and take a look at us and ultimately come to Casa Grande."

Tractor Supply Co. has said it is in the process of buying 100 acres at the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads for a distribution center to serve present and future retail stores in the Southwest.

It said it has recently opened its 14th Arizona store in Marana.

Tractor Supply bills itself as the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States.

"At Dec. 28, 2013," the tag at the bottom of its press releases says, "Tractor Supply Co. operated 1,276 stores in 48 states. The company's stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers. The company also serves the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities.  

"The company offers the following comprehensive selection of merchandise: (1) equine, pet and small animal products, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment; (2) hardware, truck, towing and tool products; (3) seasonal products, including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys; (4) work/recreational clothing and footwear; and (5) maintenance products for agricultural and rural use."


City Council to consider agreement, economic
incentives for major distribution center in CG

JUNE 9 UPDATE:

Initial approval to action on a development agreement was given today by the City Council.


(Posted June 5, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other documents when available.


Further details on the Tractor Supply proposal are HERE.


The ordinance is HERE.


The types of incentives offered by the city are found at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/econdev/business-information/incentives/


An explanation of foreign trade zones is at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_trade_zones_of_the_United_States.


The Casa Grande City Council meets in special session Monday to clean up some outstanding items and to consider incentives that would be offered to Tractor Supply Co., which has said it is considering building a $70-million distribution center in the city that would bring 161 jobs at the start and 267 at buildout.

The meeting, open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

During its May 19 meeting, the council approved a resolution supporting Tractor Supply's bid to have the operation in a free trade zone, which offers tax and other incentives.

Monday's meeting, according to the staff report, would be for initial approval for City Manager Jim Thompson to negotiate a development agreement with Tractor Supply, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., that operates more than 1,300 retail stores in 48 states.

The staff report adds that "TSC's business model focuses on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers, as well as tradesmen and other small businesses.

The 600,000-square-feet distribution center at Burris and Peters roads would serve retail stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, bringing in $8,460,430 yearly in wages to Casa Grande at buildout, the report says. The payroll for the first year of operation would be $5,265,878.

Points that would be included in the letter of intent include:

• Offering 161 full time jobs at the beginning with an hourly wage for non-exempt employees of at least 75 percent higher than the federal minimum wage (now $7.25 per hour, but rising to $10.10 hourly in January) and would pay at least 25 percent of the hourly wage  in benefits. At buildout, the agreement says, there would be 238 jobs.

• Casa Grande would give TSC with a $250,000 credit toward city fees and up to $669,000 in construction sales tax funds generated by TSC, which would be applied toward building permit and development impact fees. 

"The total incentive to Tractor Supply would not exceed $919,000," the staff report says.

• The city will be asked to consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Phoenix Trade Zone (which handles free trade zones in this area) once the Tractor Supply application has been accepted by that agency.


JUNE 9 UPDATE:

The following items were also unanimously approved:


Other items on the agenda, all under the consent agenda to be passed on one vote without discussion unless a council member or person in the audience asks for discussion, are final approvals for renewing the contract of the golf director at Dave White Municipal Golf Course, design services for a traffic signal at Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road, an automatic trapping machine for the city landfill, contracting with Paymentus Corp. for electronic processing and payment of city billings, an agreement with Verizon/Gila River Cellular for small cell locations in the city and expanding the city's solar energy program to Fire Station 4 and the Public Safety Facility.


Automatic tarping machine will save city money
in meeting state landfill covering requirements

(Posted June 8, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


You'll find the 2013 topsoil purchase staff report HERE



There are many ways for a city to save the taxpayers' money, some of them not so obvious.

Take the city landfill on Chuichu Road near Interstate 10 for example.

To comply with the requirements of the city's state permit to operate, when crews have finished dumping and spreading each day they must cover the exposed waste with at least six inches of topsoil.

As Councilman Dick Powell brought out during last Monday's City Council meeting during discussion of buying a 40-feet-wide automatic tarping machine for the nightly cover, that's 182 feet a year added to the landfill, which is being built upward.

And the dirt is expensive.

In April of 2013, the council approved a three-year contract to pay an initial $181,675 to buy 43,000 tons -- yes, tons -- of soil for cover. That's the amount needed each year.

That alone is expensive.

And as Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out, the requirement to add six inches of soil a day "is not very cost effective. This tarping machine provides us the opportunity to finish that day's work and cover it with that alternative cover (the tarp) and then uncover at the start of the next day and then continue our work."

Powell said asked if the dirt being placed sifts down into the rubble in the landfill, meaning more has to be added to reach the six-inch requirement.

"In the past, it did," Louis responded. "However, you may recall that we have the blending process where we're taking our solids from wastewater treatment plant, which we're permitted to use as an alternative cover as long as we blend that three-to-one with our topsoil material. We're finding a lot less goes through the top of the stuff, so we are saving in that respect as long as we can keep those air voids to a minimum and not have to put layer after layer after layer of dirt on there. We want  to minimize that as much as possible while still staying within our permit requirements. 

"It's going to save us money and add years to the life of the landfill."


Verizon to bring 4G cell service to Casa Grande

(Posted June 4, 2014)


Verizon's small cell explanation, showing devices attached to poles, is HERE



Verizon Wireless will begin placing what are known as "small cell" devices throughout Casa Grande to reach areas towers have problems covering, bringing the company's 4G cell service to the city.

The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to a longterm agreement with Verizon/Gila River Cellular.

City Management Analyst Steven Turner said that within two to three years there should be 20 to 30 of the short-range booster devices around the city, with about 100 expected by the end of the 25-year agreement. He said the Planning and Development Department is now processing applications for eight sites.

"Small cells are small in size and provide concentrated 4G service within a small radius," Turner's staff report said. "Due to the small concentrated footprint, multiple locations are needed. Verizon Wireless desires to partner with the city for small cell deployment in the right-of-way. City light standards and traffic lights can be ideal locations."

Answering a question from Councilwoman Mary Kortsen, City Attorney Brett Wallace said the master lease agreement does not allow Verizon to place the devices wherever it wants.

"It still requires us to individually look at where they want to put it and basically come to terms on that," he said. "It's not a they can go wherever want to. They still have to ask for our permission, they'll still have to go through staff analysis as well as permit requirements."

The same type of master lease agreement would be required of other cell phone companies wanting to install small cell equipment, Wallace said.

Councilman Dick Powell asked if the devices will be attached to existing poles or would 100 new poles spring up.

"Actually, they will not go on the existing poles," Planning and Development Director Paul Tice replied. "Those existing poles are not designed to hold additional weight, so any location we might approve, they will tear down the existing one, build a slightly larger one that can be used to support their equipment as well as the other infrastructure that needs to go it, the street light or traffic signal."

According to Turner's staff report, Verizon would pay the city $700 for each site, with a 3 percent annual increase, and would pay all electricity costs.


Sewer rate increases
Alternative proposal cuts hike to $2.75 monthly;
you can have your say at June 16 public hearing

JUNE 10 UPDATE

The city announced today that the $2.75 rate will be the one voted on when the public hearing is held June 16.


(Posted June 3, 2014)


The $2.75 monthly increase data chart is HERE


The $5 monthly increase data chart is HERE


Chart HERE shows financial problems from no increase


A comparison with area cities is HERE


An alternative to raising Casa Grande's sewer rate by five dollars monthly for two years, followed by lesser increases through 2019, will be before the City Council during the June 16 meeting.

That plan would call for a $2.75 monthly increase through 2019.

Finance Director Doug Sandstrom told the council during Monday night's meeting that the second proposal came after conversations with some residents and City Council members.

In the long run, it's pretty much the same as far as what residents will have paid over those years. Sandstrom said that under the $5 plan it would be an increase of $14 a year. Under the $2.75 increase proposal it would be $13.75 yearly.

It would be basically making the impact less during the first two years of the $5 plan. The $5 increase plan would drop to $2 the third year and $1 each of the following two years. The $2.75 plan would be the same each month through 2019.

You'll have your chance to voice your opinion on which plan the council should choose. A public hearing will precede the June 16 vote.


The whole issue is an involved one involving rising operational costs at the sewage treatment plant and the continuing obligation of paying off the loan from the Arizona Water Infrastructure Financing Authority for the expansion of the plant for present and future needs, doubling the capacity from six million gallons a day to 12 million.

The charts accompanying Sandstrom presentation show that during the fiscal year beginning July 1 the city expects to pay $5,330,400 toward that loan. It was announced in 2008 that the loan the city was applying for would be $65 million. The city said the current balance on the loan is $47,589,262, with a full maturity date of 2019.


Enterprise fund 

The wastewater fund is one of what are known as enterprise funds, meaning that they must pay for themselves through the rates charged.

"All of those rates that are paid through the wastewater funds go right into that fund," Sandstrom said. "They don't go anywhere else. They can't be used for anything outside of the provision of wastewater services. And it's all collected and dedicated with those individual funds."


Five-year outlook

Both the original wastewater increase proposal and the alternative lower one project out for five years, beginning in the 2015 city fiscal year beginning July 1.

"We wanted to take a five-year look at it," Sandstrom said, "because we want to make sure that there's no jumps up and down in either the revenue or the expenditure side, to make sure we've taken that longterm view and give some consistency built into the rates, both from a business perspective as well as from the users, so they know what to expect on an ongoing basis."


Customers

Sandstrom said 95 percent of the city's wastewater customers are residential, but that commercial accounts bring in 30 percent of the money. "So commercial is definitely paying its fair share," he added.

When the $5 monthly increase was proposed, Sandstrom said, he received queries as to why the base rate on commercial was being increased only by $1 while residents faced a $5 increase.

"I told them about the consumption portion is where we get the money there and that there is no subsidy of commercial by the residential," he said. "It actually is the other way around. 

"Any changes in our customer base on the commercial side has a definite impact on our longterm projects."


The costs

The chart provided by Sandstrom (linked above) show that during the fiscal year beginning July 1 it will cost an estimated $902,300 for personnel, $2,931,200 for supplies and contact work, plus the $5,330,400 for debt payment.


The impact of no increase

Sandstrom said that if no sewer rate increase were made, during the 2015 fiscal year the fund would remain in the black. "We would start the year with $5.9 million in the bank. On June 30 of 2015 we'd have $1.2 million. So we'd be spending down that fund balance in order to maintain the (present) rate.

"By this time next fiscal year 2016 we'd be $1.8 million in the hole and basically every year we would be subsidizing operations $3.5 million if we were to do nothing to our rates.

(Further details are in the chart linked above.)


The debt obligation

"The area that's really driving the rate increases that we're talking about today is debt service," Sandstrom said. "We have debt for the expansion of the wastewater treatment, and we need to have the wastewater rates cover that debt.

"The intent was to have development pay for that as different areas went forward, but development, as everybody knows, has not quite came back to the extent that we had wanted it to.

"When we originally went out and did the debt service (the loan) on the wastewater treatment plant we anticipated $2.5 million (yearly) coming from development impact fees.

"Our assumptions now keep our money from development impact fees at a little bit less than what we're seeing today, about $155,000 a year.

"To show you what that would mean, currently we're bringing in about $155,000. Growth around here would have to increase by a factor of about 16 times the amount of growth that you're seeing today to bring in development impact fees of about $2.4 million.

"Things would have to change dramatically for growth and development fees to be the driver of really pulling down the rates. Something really has to change in order for this development impact fee to make up that difference.

"A typical new single-family home pays about $4,000 in wastewater impact fees. The Commonwealth Dairy that came in paid $35,000 in development impact fees directly to this. "Every one of the large commercial or industrial users pays a lot more money toward the collection system and the treatment system than a residential home would. When the development happens on the economic side, we'll get more money in from development impact fees that goes right to debt that ends up helping to decrease or lower the increase in rates."

To put it in another perspective, Mayor Bob Jackson said, if $155,000 is now coming in from impact fees and would have to grow 16 times, "if you do the mental arithmetic, if we're doing 125 units a year now 16 times would be 1,800 units or so. When you add the commercial/industrial component into that, you realize that one industry is equivalent to seven or eight homes."

Another problem with development impact fees income, Sandstrom said, is "the last couple of years we've seen changes at the state level on our impact fees. We have not been able to increase our impact fees under the state law. We were then limited in what we could collect impact fees for. Most of the debt was issued prior to those changes, so that's hampering our ability to go out and make up any difference on the impact fees side by adjusting those."

The tightening of impact fee rules was passed by the Arizona Legislature after a heavy lobbying effort by developers.

It was also noted that under the terms of the loan, the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority requires the city to keep at least one year's work of debt payment in a reserve account that can't be used for anything else.


The alternative increase plan

"As a result of some of the discussion we've had with council and as well as with some residents, we went through and reevaluated a couple different things and we came up with another model where rather than that larger $5 increase the first couple of years we spread it out more over the five-year period at $2.75," Sandstrom said. 

"It's still over a five-year period, but instead of raising rates $14 a year, it raises rates $13.75."

That would not put the sewage treatment fund in the red, Sandstrom said, "but the fund balances that we have they drop significantly from where we are currently at the $5.8 million, getting all the way down in FY18 at about $1.8 million.

"At the point it starts going back up because that's where revenue will actually start to cover the expenditures and we won't be spending down our fund balance in order to maintain the rates as is."

Another effect of the lower monthly increase, Sandstrom said, would be taking $1 million out of the capital projects fund, dropping it to $1.9 million.

"We have a $1-million recharge project in there that will only move forward if we identify another revenue source for it outside of user fees, something to do with the reuse of our effluent water, something along those lines that's not a direct result of our users," he said. "So that capital project would only happen that way."

The proposed recharge project would build settling ponds and injection systems to return treated wastewater to the ground instead of letting it run down the Santa Cruz Wash. There would be water credits accumulated from the state which could be sold the developers needing to prove a water supply.


Questions from the council

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she had concerns about the companion increase on multifamily dwellings (shown in charts linked above, both for the original proposal and the revised one).

The impact on multifamily residents, she said, would be on "the people that are more vulnerable to the economy and don't have as much to spend. I just kind of wanted to look at that again, because I think there's a tendency for people to say, oh, well, it's residential, residential. Owners pass that on to tenants, so I just kind of wanted to take a closer look at that for that reason."

Sandstrom said the sewer service rate on multifamily units is about 62 percent of that charged for single-family residences "and I just kept that factor constant all the way through. So whatever we do on the residential side, multifamily adjusts accordingly on that 62 percent rate."

Councilman Ralph Varela said, "I definitely think the $2.75 is a lot easier for individuals who are less income than the $5. I think the council has done that in the previous where it's as not front-loaded and allows for easier transition."

Councilman Dick Powell said he would like to explore reconfiguring the sewage treatment plant debt, perhaps an earlier payoff

"The debt is basically the prime mover of the need to increase (monthly rates)," he said, "and I think there would be a chance to look at that and reconfigure some debts, even if we had to dip a little bit into our contingency fund that we have."


Negotiations have begun

City Manager Jim Thompson responded that, "We've started that process with WIFA, the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority, where our debt's with, which is a very low cost loan that we currently have.

"But as loans are structured over 20 or 25 years, in our case 20 years, the upfront is usually a little less and starts increasing."

(Those increases are shown in the charts linked above)

The city is looking at renegotiating the loan, Thompson said, but "we're finding that interest rates have increased a little bit, so what is the true costs savings, what is the impact on fees? Is it really going to be worth it to extend out the additional three, three and a half years on the note. Does that add value in the long run? 

"We're doing that analysis now. We'll have that before the 16th to have that discussion."

Paying a larger amount toward the loan is also problematical, Thompson said. 

If that were to be taken from the sewage treatment fund without even the $2.75 increase it would wipe out that fund. If it were paid from the General Fund, that amount would in turn be owed back to that fund.

"On the 16th we can tell you what those options might be on the financing. It will take some time to refinance that debt, it won't be immediate, but we can take that into consideration when we take a look at adjusting the rates," Thompson said.

Councilman Karl Montoya said, "I just want to thank you for the $2.75 a month (increase proposal), easier and a little bit softer than the $5, I appreciate that.

But, Montoya added, residents should not overlook what the expansion of the treatment plant has brought to the city.

"We brought in two industries, probably wouldn't have come," he said. "And I think looking at the other cities that are below us, they're not able to bring in or expand at the rate we are, because they don't have that. Coolidge, for instance, I don't they can bring in industry like we can, because they don't have the expansion power that we have.

"I think there's built-in value. I know it's tough to pay for it now, but I think it pays off in the longer run."


Rates in area cities

(The comparison chart is linked above)

Thompson said the city didn't survey other cities about the same size as Casa Grande, but rates in Lake Havasu City and Sierra Vista are about the same as neighboring city of Maricopa.

"Maricopa had to do quite a bit of improvement to theirs and that's why you see the wastewater rate at $62.91," Thompson said. "It's not an inexpensive venture. It's very expensive.

"Coolidge, in particular, (at $15.23 a month) is a totally different type of operation. It's just large lagoons and it doesn't doesn't treat water to the level that we treat it to, you cannot apply it to the land. There's a whole bunch of limitations to what they have (including tightening EPA standards for the future). So eventually Coolidge's rate will probably exceed our rate substantially because they're going to have to build not when the economy's conducive like we did, but probably when it's not as conducive because they're going to be required to.

"If you look at what Florence and Maricopa have, we have the same type of plant that they have, and we're the cheapest of the three that have that same highest quality, the A-plus water plants that we have."

Maricopa, at $62.91 for sewage, is handled by the private Global Water company.

"I think that's one advantage that we have in doing our own," Powell said. "I know that residents have gone to the Corporation Commission and there's a lot of unhappiness with their situation in Maricopa."

Jackson also pointed out that because Maricopa is predominately residential, with little commercial or industry, "the preponderance of their cost sits on the residential side."


Monday night's actions by CG City Council

(Posted June 2, 2014)


You'll find the complete agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other available documents.


City Council actions Monday night include:

• Approved the tentative $170,744,900 city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Final adoption is scheduled after a public hearing during the June 16 council meeting.

(The entire budget schedule, with links to documents, is HERE)

• Because of uncertainties over how the resolution and changes should be worded, again delayed approval of updated fire and building codes, including a revision in requirements for a fire sprinkler system that exempts unenclosed decks, patios, and similar building areas, as well as attached garages, in determining the 5,000 square foot residential area.

• Approved agreements for expanding the city's program of installing solar units on its buildings.

• Renewed the contract of Robert Bauer as director of golf at the city course at a salary of $75,000 a year.

• Gave initial approval to a $58,848 contract to design a traffic signal for Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road, rated as top priority among intersections.

• Gave initial approval to a contract with Verizon for that company to provide small-area 4G cell service in Casa Grande.

• Approved applying for a $21,288 grant for overtime for the Police Department's community policing activities.

• Awarded the city's legal advertising contract to Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, the only bidder.

• Reappointed Nicole Perez and Valyrie Wright to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

• Chose Councilwoman Mary Kortsen to be mayor pro tem, replacing Lisa Fitzgibbons. The position rotates each year among council members.

Proposal would save money for city, widen
methods for paying your utility, other bills

(Posted May 30, 2014)


UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council's meeting Monday night, June 2)


You'll find the agreement specifications HERE


Persons who receive Casa Grande utility or other billings will see their payment methods widened if a proposal before the City Council is approved Monday night.

A North Carolina financial institution known as Paymentus would handle electronic payments, processing and online billings. That operation is expected to save the city about $12,000 yearly, with further savings as the system expands.

"Currently, the city utilizes an online provider to allow customers to pay their utility bills," the staff report accompanying the agenda item says. "Customers are able to log into their account and view their current balance and make a payment, but very little else. 

"With the solution being provided by Paymentus a customer will be able to log into their account, view copies of their current and past two months utility bill, link accounts, store payment information, view up to 36 months of payment history and sign up for re-occurring billing.

"The service level that our customers will experience will increase dramatically and the overall cost to the city will decrease by approximately $1,000 per month depending upon the volume of transactions utilizing credit/debit or electronic checks."

The staff report says using Paymentus services offers advantages to both the customer and the city, including:

• E-billing: Online customers will be able to access their bill online. The electronic bill will look exactly like the paper bills which are now mailed. Customers will be able to opt in or out of receiving a hard copy of their bills.

• Various payment options: IVR (automated phone), text messaging, web, kiosk, mobile app, customer service representative assisted or in-person. Payment types accepted will be credit, debit and check under all available options. 

• Customer self-service: View account usage, bill history, make one-time payments, schedule reoccurring payments and receive notifications from the city.

• Communication management: Ability to notify customers of critical business updates via SMS text, IVR or email. IVR system will allow for both English and Spanish. 

• Business intelligence: Real-time snapshots of revenue received, daily deposits and reconciliations, real-time data management and account updates.

Regular customers such as utility users will not see a convenience fee tacked on when the service begins.

"In an effort to continue to provide optimal customer service it is our intent to continue to pay all processing fees for credit card transactions with the exception of those that take place in the Development Center (such as for permits or other documents)," the staff report says. 

"Credit card usage in the Development Center is mainly larger corporate transactions as opposed to the smaller transactions which occur with the utilities and the courts. Unlike utilities and the court, the Development Center has the ability to withhold services if payment is not made and the majority of their customers are utilizing credit cards as a business choice as opposed to a fiscal necessity. Customers choosing to utilize credit or debit cards with the Development Center will absorb a 2.7 percent transaction fee charged by the credit card processor."

In addition, the staff report says, "Included in the proposal pricing is the ability to establish online payments for many court activities. As implementation begins we will be working with the City Court to establish this service as practical. Implementation of online and/or IVR payment processing of many court related costs could have a very beneficial effect on the court. Possibilities also exist for an interconnection to our recreation software systems which will further integrate our payment processing.

"It is anticipated that switching to Paymentus will save the city approximately $12,000 annually in fees associated with court and utility payments. Additional savings will be realized as the Development Center will be set up to charge a convenience fee to those choosing to utilize credit cards when paying for permits."


Financial assurances met, City Council OKs
PhoenixMart sewer line extension agreement

(Posted May 22, 2014)


The updated draft agreement is HERE


The financial guarantees section is HERE


The original staff report is HERE


Go to SPECIAL, in the header above, for earlier stories outlining the project requests.


A $10-million sewer line agreement with AZ Sourcing, the parent of the proposed PhoenixMart project, has been approved after the developers agreed to financial guarantees other than a deed to the land.

PhoenixMart needs a 21-inch sewer line to service its 500-plus acres east of the Promenade mall. Because the city wants to be able to serve future development on the east side, it will upsize the line to provide future capacity.

It's a matter of doing it all at once, rather than a few years from now have to excavate for a new, larger line.

Under the agreement, PhoenixMart is to pay $4.8 million in three installments as the project progresses. The city will fund the rest out of money already collected from development impact fees and construction sales tax.

The proposed sewer rate increase in the city is not connected to PhoenixMart or the line upsizing, city officials have said. Money collected from that increase will go toward operating costs and bond payments for the city sewer treatment plant.

Before the City Council unanimously approved the agreement Monday night, Deputy City Manager Larry Rains gave a brief overview of the situation, followed by comments from City Attorney Brett Wallace about the financial guarantees being monetary, not land.

The upsizing of the line would be needed, Rains said, for several reasons.

"As we reviewed this from the city's perspective we understand that there's some potential synergies that likely will happen as a result of the PhoenixMart phase one and some of the other development that will imminent under phase two and two-b of this particular development.

"We also have had a fair amount of inquiry over the years regarding the services necessary to open development to the east side. And, since this discussion has commenced with AZ Sourcing we have had other developers that have made inquiry as having interest in potentially siting the line to the east side.

"The thought as we started down this process with AZ Sourcing was that the city would like to upsize this line regardless of what size of line they ultimately ended up building, so this entire project has been somewhat developed based on that particular strategy."

During earlier briefings, the city said there are two possible routes for the line: east along Kortsen Road or jogging south and then east along Florence Boulevard.

"I believe Kortsen Road would be the preferred line at this particular time," Rains said Monday night, "but there's still a fair amount of analysis that has to be done."

The city has estimated that the entire project could be done for $10 million.

"That project will not only include the construction cost associated with the line sizing but it will also include the permitting that takes place, the right of way acquisition, if any, that is required. All what we consider to be total project costs for the project, establishing that $10-million budget.

"Obviously, $4.8 million of that will be payable by AZ Sourcing, the other $5.2 million will be payable through funding sourcing that the city has actually accumulated over the years, from payments through the development community.

"There's actually two of those. We have our development impact fees that we've collected on any new development that has taken place since those were imposed and a portion of that,  it's $2.5 million I believe, would be paid by development impact fees from the collection line component.

"The second component, again which is driven by sources of development, is our construction sales tax increment that we began collecting in 2006 that was specific for infrastructure projects, so the remaining portion of that would be financed through our construction sales tax fund.


No sewer rate funds involved

Rains said the city has received questions of whether the proposed increase in sewer rates will be diverted to the PhoenixMart/upsizing project.

"And the answer is no," Rains said. "We are looking to finance this, payable by cash, through development type revenue streams. The sewer rate component increase is needed for our sewer operations, the actual operations within that fund.

"There's also been a question of whether or not we would be utilizing any of our General Fund reserves, or fund balance. The answer is no. Again, development related funding sources will be utilized for the capital side of the project."

The $4.8 million from AZ Sourcing/PhoenixMart would be in three installments, the first when the city signs a construction contract.

"The second payment would come as phase two within their development begins and/or the sooner of five years, whichever came first," Rains said. "The third and final payment of $1.6 million would transpire at the time that a permit was pulled in phase two-b and/or at a 10-year marker.

"And so it's important to note that if no development happens in either phase two or two-b in five- and 10-year increments those payments would be due to the city.

"We have backed that in the development agreement with a financial security, which would be payable or actually posted at the time that the $1.6 million initial payment was made. In essence, we have a $3.2-million bond, financial assurance that is posted at the time we hired a contractor."


Financial assurances

Questions arose from the City Council during the initial discussion of the sewer line agreement about AZ Sourcing wanting to use a land deed as security rather than post monetary assurances.

"Specifically, AZ Sourcing had requested that the city consider accepting a deed trust on property," City Attorney Wallace told the council Monday night. "That is obviously something that city has generally not done, for a number of reasons.

"We were able to share those myriad reasons with AZ Sourcing and fortunately they have now agreed to withdraw their request to use a deed of trust. They have agreed to post a surety bond, irrevocable letter of credit, cash deposit or cash equivalent as security.

"There's also language in the agreement that would allow them to do other similar means, but our intent in doing that is that they be similar to those cash items. They need to be a substantial equivalent of the cash-based securities.

"The agreement I think made clear that land would not be acceptable as security for that $3.2 million that'll need to be secured from the time of that first payment."

 

Updating of city codes again delayed pending
revisions about open patios, enclosed garages

(Posted May 21, 2014)


Explanatory memo is HERE


The proposed 2012 code is HERE



As the City Council began considering proposed changes to city building and fire codes, Councilman Matt Herman said he had been approached by a builder who had questions about the section that said new houses of more than 5,000 square feet of livable space would need to have a fire sprinkler system.

What was being questioned, Herman said, was that garages and patios were to be included in calculating that space.

The council tabled the matter until this week's meeting to allow Planning and Development Director Paul Tice to research the issue and report back.

"The first thing is that staff confirmed that the requirements of sprinkler systems in single-family homes exceeding 5,000 square feet has, in fact, been in place in Casa Grande since 1988," Tice said in his report Monday night. "It has been continued in various editions of the code we have adopted since then. And it's also proposed in the 2012 fire code and building code and residential code being considered."

(The 2012 proposal is the latest offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.)

Tice said a provision in the 2012 version would exempt single-family homes that were originally less than 5,000 square feet but went over that limit because of an addition to the building. Those homes, he said, would be grandfathered and not require sprinklers.

"The other thing that we verified," Tice continued, "was that under the current code, the definition of building area is area that is within closed walls. Open patios, open decks that are maybe under roof but don't have walls would be exempt from being included in the 5,000 square foot calculation.

"As a side note, we did determine that in the 2012 proposal it did modify the definition of building area that does include open decks that might have living area or structure above them or share the roofline with the structure. So, the 2012 code would include decks and porches, patios that share a roof with the main structure in the 5,000 square feet. Unless modified, that would remain in the 2012."

And that was the point of Herman's initial concerns. He feels that garages and patios should not be counted in determining livable space.

"I'd like to see some sort of wording that excludes the patios that are unenclosed patio areas and attached garages, which would make most of our homes exempt from this that are under construction," he said Monday night.

"But, the attached garages should contain smoke detectors. It is a safety issue, as the Fire Department told me, so I appreciate that. So that's why I think the smoke detectors will be really have to be in the garage in these wider homes because a lot of the fires start way, and so that would warn people inside the house."

In recapping the issue, Tice said, "Under the current code that we're operating under, when you calculating the 5,000 square feet it's still the building area. And the building area is defined by the area that's enclosed by walls, which means patios that don't have walls are not included in the building area. So they're exempt today. Open patios, open decks, even though they're under the roof of the building are exempt.

"In the 2012 proposal, it changes the definition of building area to say that decks and patio, even though they may not be enclosed by walls, if they have living area over the top, structural area over the top, or share the roofline with the main structure that they are to be included in the building area.

"So what I heard you say was that in addition to garage not being included in the 5,000 square feet, unenclosed patios and unenclosed decks would also be excluded, even though they share the same roof as the structure."

Correct, Herman replied.

A revised proposal will be before the council during its June 2 meeting.


Foreign trade zone designation would bring
250 to 300 jobs, $7.5-million payroll to city



(Posted May 20, 2014)




An explanation of foreign trade zones is at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_trade_zones_of_the_United_States


A list of foreign trade zones in Arizona is HERE


The Casa Grande staff report is HERE



Casa Grande is supporting a request by Tractor Supply Co. for a foreign trade zone on the west side of the city that the company says would bring a $7.5 million annual payroll for 250 to 300 full-time jobs operating out of a $70-million facility.

The company is in the process of buying 100 acres at the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads for a distribution center to serve present and future retail stores in the Southwest.

It said it has recently opened its 14th Arizona store in Marana.

Tractor Supply bills itself as the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States.

"At Dec. 28, 2013," the tag at the bottom of its press releases says, "Tractor Supply Co. operated 1,276 stores in 48 states. The company's stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers. The company also serves the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities.  

"The company offers the following comprehensive selection of merchandise: (1) equine, pet and small animal products, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment; (2) hardware, truck, towing and tool products; (3) seasonal products, including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys; (4) work/recreational clothing and footwear; and (5) maintenance products for agricultural and rural use."

A foreign trade zone designation, in brief, allows tax breaks by local taxing agencies for 20 years and provides certain reductions when importing materials from other countries.

In Casa Grande's case, the tradeoff for the 250 to 300 jobs and $7.5-million payroll would be a reduction of about $109,000 yearly on the city's primary property tax rate.

However, Tractor Supply is also requesting other economic development incentives from the city, but those have not been made public. They were to be discussed during a closed executive session Monday night. Such closed sessions are allowed when discussing legal and personnel issues.

"Ultimately, what the benefit to Tractor Supply in Casa Grande would be is that they would be able to reduce their property tax ratio from 19 percent to 5 percent for a 20-year period," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains told the council before its unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the trade zone proposal.

"We have attempted to quantify that from staff's perspective just to get a better understanding.

"When you take their $71 million capital investment and take those items that would be taxable under our primary property tax scenario and reclassifying the ratio from 19 percent to 5 percent over the next 20 years, you could anticipate that Tractor Supply would save roughly $109,000 annually under our current property tax rate.

"We do anticipate that the 5 percent would generate roughly $40,000 per year in annual primary property taxes, should they elect to site their distribution center here in Casa Grande."

Tractor Supply needs resolutions of support from each taxing agency in the area, the council was told.

"The school districts, the county and the other taxing agencies have completed their review and are supporting the application," Rains said.

As Rains explained it, "A foreign trade zone is one of the few tools  that the state of Arizona still allows for development. On rare occasions, the city does entertain requests and currently we have one entity operating in a foreign trade zone, that being Abbott Labs.

"A foreign trade zone (covers companies) that are going to be distributing their products outside of the United States Customs territory, it allows the companies to defer property taxes and also it's beneficial when they import large volumes of goods.

"I think its important to understand that tonight is simply a support letter, a resolution of support, for the entity to make application. This does not indicate that they would be successful in that, but it does allow the support for that application to take place.

"This particular resolution, in their opinion, is the first stage. They really need to determine whether or not the community will support them on a foreign trade zone designation."

Rains said that the next step is for Tractor Supply to apply for the foreign trade designation. He said that would probably be done through the city of Phoenix, which has been designated as an agency.

"It will be evaluated and if they meet the criteria then the designation would take place and as such the property tax initiative would come in place," he said.


Monday night's actions by the City Council

(Posted May 19, 2014)


You'll find the full agenda at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/

Clicking on an agenda item brings up staff reports and other supporting documents when available.


Actions Monday night by the City Council include:


• Gave final approval to change the name of Ocotilla Street to Ocotillo.

• Again tabled a vote on changes to city codes, awaiting proposed revision of the proposed code requiring fire sprinklers in new homes of more than 5,000 square feet.

• Approved a sewer line agreement with developers of the proposed PhoenixMart. The item had been delayed because PhoenixMart wanted financial guarantees to be the land upon which the project will be built. Developers have now agreed that the guarantees will be monetary, not land.

• Decided that money for community development will be spent to continue the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.

• Approved a resolution supporting a foreign trade zone designation for a proposed distribution center near the southeast corner of Burris and Peters roads.

• Accepted the resignation of Lyle Riggs from the Board of Adjustment and appointed Debra Shaw-Rhodes.

• Appointed Riley Allen, Jicell Butron, Olivia Carter, Skylar Goodsell, Madison Ramirez Mazahevi, Savanna McMahon, Guillermo Pinon, Holly Rakoci, Sarah White and Brittany Williams to the Casa Grande Youth Commission and reappointed Zoe Cooper, Brooklyn Johnson, Kelcy Johnson, Arriana Jones, Kris Mejia and Nadia Rivas.

• Approved an agreement between the Fire Department and Central Arizona College for riding along with firefighters as part of paramedic and emergency medical technician training.

• Gave initial approval to spending $131,000 for purification chemicals at the city sewage treatment plant.


Casa Grande jobless rate drops to 6.7 percent

(Posted May 16, 2014)


Partial unemployment statistics posted by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 6.7 percent during April, down from 7.7 during March. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,391 people out of work during April, down from 1,626 for March. 

Casa Grande had a 3.7 percent jobless rate for April 2007, the year before the economy crashed. 

The drop in the jobless rate was mirrored in other Pinal County cities and throughout the state. 


An article in the Phoenix Business Journal HERE gives a perspective.


Pinal County had an April rate of 6.5 percent jobless (9,154 without work), down from 7.8 (11,033) during March. 

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for April. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

6.2 percent jobless rate for April (288 unemployed), down from 7.4 percent (347) during March. 

Eloy

10.2 rate for April (400 jobless), down from 12.1 (482) during March. 

Florence

8.4 rate for April (265 jobless), down from 10.1 during March (324). 

Maricopa city

6.1 rate for April (1,219 jobless), down from 7.3 during March (1,467).


Initial steps taken to change Ocotilla Street name;
city cites emergency services conflict with Ocotillo

(Posted May 10, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


Dosty's 1958 Final Plat is HERE


A sample notification letter is HERE


A returned envelope is HERE



As that old song puts it about a couple about to be married:

You say eee-ther and I say eye-ther

You say n-eee-ther and I say n-eye-ther

Let's call the whole thing off.


In Casa Grande, you say Ocotill-ah and I say Octotill-oh.

The city is calling the whole thing off, changing Ocotilla Street to Ocotillo Street on the basis of ending confusion both with mail and emergency services.

The move received initial approval May 5 from the City Council.

In actuality, Ocotilla Street has been around far longer than Ocotillo, but the planning staff said they base their decision on Ocotillo being the proper name of the plant, not the feminine Ocotilla.

(On the other hand, plain old Ocotillo is probably better than other names by which the shrub is known. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum fact sheet says it is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword and Jacob's Staff. Some of those, though, are probably too long for a street sign.)

Ocotilla Street came to Casa Grande in 1953 with the platting of Poole's Second Addition Final Plat, followed by Dosty's Final Plat in 1958, Northside Final Plat (for which a date is not listed) and Casa Grande Vista Unit Two Final Plat in 1972. The first three are West Ocotilla, the last one is East Ocotilla.

Confusion appeared in 2000, when West Ocotillo Street was platted in The Cottonwoods Final Plat on the west side of the city. 

"This confusion partially stems from spelling errors due to the fact that the proper name of the indigenous plant is “Ocotillo” with “Ocotilla” being the incorrect gender of that name," the staff report says.

"The incorrect spelling is creating some problems with the ability to identify the street to show up on GPS, to be recognized by the post office, some of those kinds of identification issues," Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council.

In preparation for the proposed change, the city sent out 148 letters to people who would be affected by the change.

The staff report says 38 letters were returned after failing to be delivered, 12 were returned due to the use of the Ocotillo spelling of the street name in the supplied mailing address, 11 for the location being vacant, three for the supplied mailing address being invalid and two for closed post office boxes.

"Of the 148 letters that were sent, we received seven phone calls," Tice said. "Three were in support, three were opposition, one had no answer when called back.

There was a brief exchange between Tice and Councilman Karl Montoya.

MONTOYA: The three opposed, were you able to convince them or were they still opposed at the end of the day?

TICE: I think they were still opposed at the end of the day.

MONTOYA: What were their reasons, mainly?

TICE: It's the historic name, it's been there forever, what's the problem, why change it.

MONTOYA: I guess to build on that, how much of a problem has the city endured with the old name? I think everybody just calls it Ocotillo anyway, so a lot of people never knew.

TICE: If you put it into the GPS, the GPS does not recognize Ocotilla. So they probably have some problems with the UPS deliveries, the FedEx deliveries.

I suspect that locally our fire and police are pretty well used to it, but Ocotillo and Ocotilla there's two of them, you really shouldn't have. 

If we're going to leave Ocotilla alone, we probably should change the Ocotillo name, because they're too close together.

MONTOYA: I guess what I'm trying to get at is, who initiated this changeover, although the citizens aren't complaining about it?

TICE: Staff initiated it, based on a street naming issue that we have identified.

We've actually identified a number of them. This was one of the ones that was a fairly simple solution, but we have identified a fairly good list of street name numbering issues that we will be bringing to the council over time.

MONTOYA: But it's safe to say citizens didn't complain about it, UPS was getting through, the mail was getting through.

MAYOR BOB JACKSON: We don't know.

MONTOYA: If people weren't getting their stuff they ordered and things like that, that would have came up a long time ago. 

This name (Ocotilla) has been like that for how long?

JACKSON: Since the plat was originally platted.

MONTOYA: Exactly.

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen questioned how aware residents would be if problems arose.

"I imagine there could be some problems with it," she said, "but people don't know to call the city and say you're causing me a problem.

"At this point in time because of more and more use of UPS and using GPS systems and that, it's spelled wrong. That's not right."

Noting that the city received only seven responses to its notification letters, Councilman Ralph Varela asked if the letters addressed some of the potential consequences, including what residents would have to do.

"Yes," Tice replied. "We did note that the change would aid in the proper routing of emergency services, removing the issues of future sales due to conflicting information, help ensure that GPS devices would be able to locate the property. We discussed that in more depth with the persons who contacted us."

Tice outlined some other factors.

"We did look at what was the impact on the residents financially in terms of this," he said. "And it really is little actual direct financial impact. 

The assessor's office will automatically change their official record and their mailing address. We'll contact the post office and have that changed.

"So between city staff and the county staff much of the official notification of changes to that will occur. 

"Residents will have to, you know, contact their financial institutions and others about the street name change. Residents have self-addressed envelope or address stickers or those kind of things, those would have to be changed eventually as well."

Tice said he did not know how long the post office will deliver to the old address. When the postal service changed ZIP codes in Casa Grande, residents were sent notifications spelling out how long 85222 would be honored before delivery was halted because 85122 was not being used.

With Ocotillo/Ocotilla, Tice said, "My understanding is that the post office will continue to sort of honor both addresses for a time period, sort of phase it out, so it won't happen overnight from that standpoint. But the official change will happen fairly rapidly.

"We would, of course, notify all residents by letter that this happened, answer any questions they might have in terms of what they might need to do. But typically it's just like moving, you're going to have to contact folks who send you mail and make some adjustments. The change is so minor, though, I suspect there will be few problems.

"But in the bigger scheme of things, because we're able to provide emergency services, mail properly, identify the street properly we think the costs, any of those small costs, are outweighed by the benefits."

Councilman Dick Powell agreed.

"It's a hardship when you've had an address and you've received mail at a certain place to change it," he said, "but when it begins to affect mail and also public safety response it's a concern."

The council, including Montoya, voted for initial approval of the change.


Final adoption of updated city codes delayed

(Posted May 10, 2014)


You'll find the complete code section HERE


Adoption of updated building and other codes in Casa Grande has been delayed until a contractor's question about fire sprinkling requirements has been resolved.

Final approval was to come Monday night (May 5) during the City Council meeting, but Councilman Matt Herman asked that it be pulled from the agenda for discussion.

"It was brought to my attention today by a contractor that a residential home of 5,000 square feet and above has to be sprinkled under this new code," Herman said. 

"This particular house was 3,900 square feet livable, then the garage and patio takes it over the 5,000 so that requires it to be sprinkled. In addition to that, in order to have a sprinkler system on your home you have to upsize the water meter, so that's a big cost."

Herman said his concern was that many smaller homes have those patios, common throughout Arizona and counted as livable space, and the size of them sends the total square footage over 5,000.

The proposed code section in question says:

One- and two-family dwellings exceeding 5,000 square feet per structure shall be provided an automatic sprinkler system per 2012 International Fire Code Section 903.2.8, as amended.

Exception: An automatic residential fire sprinkler system shall not be required for additions or alterations to existing buildings that are not already provided with an automatic residential sprinkler system. 

"I propose we table this until we can get it worked out," Herman said.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded, "We certainly can research that and come back with a report to council on what the requirements are for sprinkling of homes that are over 5,000 under our current codes, as well as the proposal, and those issues that you bring. We'll certainly have the report back for the next meeting."

The vote to table the agenda item was unanimous.


Appointments made to city boards, commission

(Posted May 9, 2014)


The City Council has appointed new members to three boards and a commission and reappointed others.

Anabel Bevan was appointed to the Police Advisory Board. Reappointed were Rodolfo Calvillo, Johnjaline Cully and Mikel McBride.

Stephen Gentzkow was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, along with reappointment of Brett Benedict, Joel Braunstein, and Fred Tucker.

Gene Lehman, Warren Truman and Byron Mays were reappointed to the Part-Time Firefighters Board of Trustees.

Mark Bonsall was appointed to the Fire and Police Personnel Retirement Board.


     Chart shows five-year sewer rate projections

Public hearing set on raising CG's sewer rates;
water rate increase is not by Arizona Water Co.

(Posted May 6, 2014)


The sewer financials are HERE


You'll find the water rates chart HERE


The water financials are HERE


The approval Monday night of an intent to raise city residential sewer rates by $5 monthly and increase other categories, along with raising rates for a small water company Casa Grande owns in the Copper Mountain area, sets the stage for public hearings.

No increase in the city's trash collection rate is requested.

Two major things were pointed out prior to the approval: The intent itself does not increase the sewer rates. The water increases are for the city company, not for Arizona Water Co., which services most of Casa Grande.

All the approval does, Finance Director Doug Sandstrom said, "is say that we're going to start thinking about that, we're going to look at it and we're going to get public input and consider it at a future date," which will be a public hearing on June 16.

"We're going to have a workshop (June 2) prior to the public hearing to go over those in detail with the council to make sure that council is fully aware what is included in the rates and what it is that we're looking at."

Sandstrom said the city has projected rates for the next five years, but that the Finance Department is asking for final approval only for increases on Aug. 1 this year and July 1 next year.

"That will set it in motion so we don't have to go through the whole process all over again," Sandstrom said. "It sets the expectations for the residents, as well as the customers."

He also pointed out that during the public hearing the council could decide on lower increases but cannot go higher than what is in the chart (above).

The sewer increases, affecting the city's 14,500 customers, are needed because projections show that income will not catch up with expenses until fiscal year 2019, Sandstrom said.

His presentation compared the $33.70 monthly rate that Casa Grande would have with rates in neighboring cities.

That shows Coolidge $15.23 monthly, Arizona City at $24, Eloy at $26, Florence at $40.30 and the city of Maricopa at $62.91.

"These are rates that they currently charge and we're comparing it to what we're proposing," Sandstrom said. "We do not know if they're proposing increases or what they have in store or in mind with their services."

The main reason for the increases, Sandstrom told the council, is the amount of debt because of major sewer plant expansions.

Mayor Bob Jackson pointed out that the sewer plant debt "isn't a level number, it goes up and down. The way we structured the bond, there was a smaller number for a few years and then go up." That led Councilman Matt Herman to asked if that debt could be restructured to level the amounts.

"That's absolutely something we'll be talking with the Arizona Water Infrastructure Financing Authority to see what we can do about restructuring whenever it makes sense for us to do that," Sandstrom replied.

Councilman Dick Powell said increasing the monthly sewer service charge by $14 over five years "probably bothers me as much as anything has since I've been on the council. Although tonight we're just voting for a hearing, I personally would like to get a lot more information and look at what might be some alternatives. I know everybody up here is concerned with it."


Is it too big for Casa Grande?
On split vote, P&Z Commission says no, it's not

(Posted May 3, 2014)


You'll find information about the Caliche backers at

http://linkseniordevelopment.com/our-portfolio/

and at

http://linkseniordevelopment.com/about-us/ownerceo/


The PowerPoint presentation, with financials, is HERE


The agenda and staff reports are at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


How big is too big for Casa Grande?

If it's a proposed assisted living facility that's mostly a three-story, 52,370-square-feet building that's 35 feet high put onto about 4.9 acres, it's too big and would overpower the northeast corner of Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane, one Planning and Zoning Commission member said before voting against a conditional use permit and major site plan.

The $19-million project, which the commission passed over the objections of Mike Henderson and Joel Braunstein, will be known as Caliche Senior Living, offering 83 assisted living units, 32 memory care beds for demential or Alzheimer's patients and an adult day care center for persons who may be living with their families but are homebound while the children are at work.

Although from a separate developer, Caliche would tie in with the proposed Villas Plus by Mary T expansion just to the north, offering cross connections and cross services. That plan was approved unanimously.

Aside from questions about traffic and drainage, the Caliche discussion centered on size.

"It has more than an acre and a quarter floor plan in it," commission member Mike Henderson said. "It's an enormous building, it's going to be the tallest building for miles in any direction, it's on a small lot, there aren't any setbacks.

"Have we had any discussions about how massive this thing is, are there some options that have been considered?"


The evaluation

City Planner Jim Gagliardi replied that city staff had evaluated the proposal.

"I believe that the applicant made some good design choices by placing the building in the center of the site," he said, "and the reason for that is so that it's not close to any one particular use. Even it does have a large footprint, it more than meets what the setback requirements are.

"The other thing that is good to mention is that because the property to the south fronting Cottonwood is zoned B1, that's a commercial use (which also allows 35-feet-high buildings). Directly north of that B1 is residential uses. There's Villas by Mary T and then further north than that there's Highland Manor, which is single-family residential.

"What's really ideal and works in the applicant's favor is that the senior living facility is a good transitional use because it buffers the impact you get with the business zone to the south from the lower intensity residential zones to the north.

"This facility, which is more residential in appearance even though it's bulk and scale is large,  has design elements that are indicative of a residential design. And then as you go further north than that you have these single-story four-plexes and six-plexes (in the new Mary T complex), so you get a little bit less intense. And by the time you get north of Mary T you're in a single-family residential area."

Gagliardi also noted that the southwest corner of Peart and Cottonwood also allows commercial buildings.

"So there's going to be a lot of transition within the next couple of years with development that comes to this corner," he said, "but the presence of the assisted living facility will help make the area a little bit more compatible because there'll be this residential facility that's buffering the business uses that are to the south and west from the residential use that are to the east and north."

That didn't wash with Henderson.

"My opinion is still that it's too big," he said, "and I wish that we would put this off for a month and have you go discuss with the applicant whether we can take a setback step or take the top layer (of the building) off, or what is financially feasible for the applicant.

"I think we need this kind of thing, and I agree with Mary T that they're complimentary things, but we made a mistake down the street when we put a Cox cable facility building  (Cottonwood and Colorado) in there, because it's too big and too out of scale with the neighborhood. And I really believe this is going to be the same situation and I'm not going to vote for it (in this form)."

Gunnar Langhus, the project architect, said the independent living Mary T villas and the proposed Caliche assisted living and memory care units would work well together.

As Langhus explained it, having three stories in a narrower building rather than spreading the complex widely over a single story shortens distances the tenants have to walk, either to the dining room or other areas, before they become too tired to go on.

"The more activity that we can get from a senior, especially as they're aging, is going to promote their health and their longevity and have a happier, more fulfilling life," he said.

Langhus pointed out that the memory care part of the building would be single story.

Co-owner's view

Ron Ziebart (pictured at left), owner and chief executive officer of Link Development, a co-owner of the project, said a similar project is near completion in Kingman and ground will be broken in Bullhead City in about a month for another.

The Casa Grande project, he said, would cost about $13 million for the building, rising to about $19 million when added costs such as furnishings, land and other items are factored in.

"There's about a 12-month construction from start to completion," he said, "and then the period that it takes to ramp it up. About 18 to 24 months after that we'll be at full capacity."

Henderson was still not satisfied.

"What happens to your operating numbers if you make this building less massive, say for simplicity cut off the top floor?" he asked Ziebart.

Ziebart's response was, "I'm going to answer you -- and I'm not trying to be smart aleck-- it just doesn't work, it just doesn't work. With a business, you've got the revenue and you've got the expenses, and if you cut out a third or maybe 25 percent of the revenue stream it just doesn't financially make sense. We've tried to eliminate just a couple of units and it doesn't make sense.

"We've got this broken down into three different settings. We've got 83 in assisted living, 32 in memory care, and of course the adult day care. 

"Without getting into the specifics of it, I can tell you right now it just doesn't work out. This is the break point for the project for us, by the time you factor in the cost of the property, cost of permits, cost of road improvements things that we're going to deal with, the drainage. If you reduce that by 25 or 30 percent, you've got the same costs associated and you're trying to spread that over fewer units. The cost per unit just starts skyrocketing when you take out 25 percent or 30 percent of your building."

Henderson said that his understanding is that in health care the biggest piece of ongoing costs is staffing "and I would think that fewer units would result in fewer staffing."

That's true for ongoing operational costs, Ziebart replied, but the initial cost is fixed.

As an example, he said, the kitchen equipment is going to cost about $180,000. 

"I'm going to have the same kitchen design if I have 106 people in that building or if I have 86 people," he continued. "The property cost is fixed, we've already purchased the property. The ongoing cost isn't the overall effect. My loan, my overall financial impact on the initial cost of those things, the street improvements, the drainage, they're going to be the same if I do 30 units or 150 units. 

"So what happens is there's a point where you have to balance the initial cost. It isn't so much the ongoing cost to manage it, but if I have a debt service of $16 million instead of 15, that's the difference between breaking it or not breaking it. We've lost the revenue stream of that many units to cover that debt service. My short story is, it just doesn't work."

Henderson said he was willing to accept the answer that it just doesn't work, "but I can't support it being what it is. Is there a halfway ground in there someplace?"

"I don't think so," Ziebart answered.

"We came in and spent over a hundred thousand dollars just to get to this point in design, with the understanding that we're meeting the criteria on the height restriction. We're trying to help create a transition. If we weren't here, the buildings up, and then commercial comes and builds a 35-foot building there, they have no transition at that point. 

"I'm answering your question but I'm hoping I'm trying to convince you that I think we're a benefit to the overall transition along that street than we are a determent. In fact, I know we are. We're going to be probably the best landscaped project in this city, I guarantee it. I can show you projects in Montana and in Oregon that they're just phenomenal, they look great.

"I'm not trying to do a sales pitch on you, that's just the honest truth." 

Henderson said he has been close to the health care industry for a long time, although not as a care professional, and does understand feasibility, depreciation and operating numbers.

"My question has been, is there something you can do to make me happier than I am, because if you can't, then I can't vote for it," he said. "That is too big for that corner."


Divided views

Other commission opinion was divided.

Braunstein said he appreciates the idea of Caliche and Mary T interacting, "but we still have to evaluate each one of these proposals separately. The fact that you may think that you're going to Mary T or vice versa, it really doesn't matter."

Ruth Lynch said the photos of the proposed Caliche building shown during the presentation (which were not part of the packet earlier made available to the commission) clarified it for her.

"If we were talking a three-story, 53,000-square-foot building that's straight up, three-story box building," she said, "that to me would not be inviting for the population you're looking for in the first place. But secondly, it would be more of an industrial looking type facility which, in my opinion, would not be appropriate in that neighborhood area. As you said, it's not a total three-story building and it's not a square industrial looking building."

Brett Benedict said he understands Henderson's issues with the project, but the presentation allowed a vision of what it looks like. 

"Certainly the kind of facilities and services that we need," he said, "and particularly considering that commercial (corner) issue, to have that buffer I think it's a good facility to have."

Lynch added, This is not an exception to our zoning code, it meets the requirements of the code."

Braunstein responded that, "We've talked about this before -- I have, too -- that our job is 'planning' and zoning. Just because it's according to code doesn't mean it has to be passed, or else there wouldn't be a need for a commission."

Chairman Jeff Lavender said the fact that Mary T officials and residents were in the audience in support of the Caliche project meant much to him. 

Those included Mary Tjosvold (the T of Mary T). "She would be probably the one who would be the most financially impacted if the building was an eyesore," Lavender said, "and she's here in support, so that's why I'm inclined to support it."

Commission member Fred Taylor said that in his business he works with people that need the types of services to be offered "and it's something that we need options in this community and financially feasible. I like it and I'm glad you guys are here."

The vote on the conditional use permit and the site plan was 4-2, with Henderson and Braunstein opposed.

"I acknowledge all the good things everybody's said," Henderson said, "but I think the building's too big. I vote no."

No construction start date for Caliche was given. Mary T officials said their expansion could start toward the end of this year.


Villas by Mary T expansion, plus adjoining assisted
living, memory care unit on Thursday's P&Z agenda

UPDATE: Both items were approved Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.


(Posted April 28, 2014)


You'll find the agenda and complete staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/


An expansion of the Villas by Mary T and an adjoining assisted living facility are on the agenda when the Planning and Zoning Commission meets Thursday.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The construction will be on now vacant land to the west of Villas by Mary T at the northeast corner of Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane.

Part of it is to be known as Villas Plus by Mary T, consisting of 20 single-story buildings, broken down as 16 fourplexes, three simplexes and one building housing two attached units and a clubhouse.

To the south on the same property, but by a different developer, would be the three-story 52,370-square-feet Caliche Senior Living Facility, consisting of assisted living units, a section for Alzheimer's or memory problems patients and an adult day care service. It would have 28 studio units, 51 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. The memory problems section would have 10 private rooms and 11 semiprivate ones.

In a letter to the city, the Caliche developers said, "The memory care portion of the facility will be secured with monitored exists and keypad entry for all doors. Recreational facilities and open spaces for memory care patients are completely enclosed and secured to ensure the safety of patients."

The letter said the assisted living part "will feature housing for seniors who are in need of assisted living facilities that are a step down from a traditional nursing home where medical procedures are performed by staff. The facility will feature active recreational activities and opportunities for socialization for residents.

"An additional adult day care service will operate in the Caliche Senior Living Facility. The adult day care services will allow seniors who living with family and may have otherwise been homebound during the day to enjoy recreational and social activities with Caliche residents in a safe, supervised setting."


Board of Supervisors meetings to be on internet

(Posted April 28, 2014)


Pinal County issued this statement, in part, today:


People who are interested in the decisions of the Board of Supervisors but cannot make the meetings in Florence now have a way to stay informed. Beginning on Wednesday, April 30, the meetings will be live on the internet.

Go to http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov to log into live and archived meetings. 

"It is all about transparency," said Chairman Anthony Smith. "Many of my constituents from District 4 were unable to make the meetings in person, so I asked our Communications Department to see what options were available to meet our resident's needs."

If a person would like to research past decisions, the clerk of the board's office will have archived video of six month's worth of meetings on its website. The link will also include videos of supervisor interviews and other Channel Pinal shows. 

"The best part of this system is the feature where a viewer can click on a corresponding item in our agenda and see just that discussion and vote," Smith said. "There will be no need to watch the entire board meeting to get to just one item."


Attachments to manufactured homes, park models
tweaked prior to adoption of latest building codes

(Posted April 28, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier stories on care homes and property maintenance codes changes


In taking the first steps toward adoption of model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council, the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department has amended some of them to better reflect local conditions.

Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

One of the amendments concerns additions to park model and manufactured homes.

That was outlined to the City Council earlier by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice and again in brief form by Dwight Williams, chief building official, prior to the council giving initial approval to adoptions. (Final approval is expected during the May 5 council meeting.)

"Most of the discussion had to do with the attachment of patio covers, shade structures, carports," Tice told the council during the earlier briefing.

"The unamended building code, or residential code, requires that information be provided from the manufacturer of that park model that shows that that park model can withstand the load weight of attaching that structure, using the park model itself to support the structure on one side and then, of course, the vertical posts on the other. 

"And the weight really isn't a downward weight, it's pretty light in weight. It's an upward weight, an upward lift load from the wind, really withstand that wind load."

That was discussed at length within the department, Tice said, and research was done on how other communities are handling the issue.

"We ended up with a position of amending the code that we feel comfortable with, that these additions that are pre-engineered can be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation and the manufacturer's standard engineering requirement without having the property owner to have to go out and do specific engineering for each park model or manufactured home that they need to attach to.

"There was a past practice to allow this to occur. There was a shift with the new building official to ask for engineering, and so we're really going back to that past practice. But we feel comfortable after talking to many communities in Arizona that allow construction of these that our approach is in line with how they're doing it, as well."

                                         (Story continues beneath picture)

In a related code issue, Tice covered what kind of work is exempt from needing a building permit.

"One of the things that came up in the discussions with the Board of Appeals was certain accessory structures would not need permits," he said. "This is exactly what we have in the code today, we just carried this forward (as an amendment to the 2012 code). 

"It's residential accessory structures of 200 square feet or less and commercial accessory of 120 square feet or less do not not need permits. Just build them.

"Staff's concern is, though, that because if they're exempted from permits that we have to be careful that the perception isn't that there are no rules in there on the construction of these structures. There are zoning rules regarding setbacks, we still have to comply with building setbacks.

"Although they're exempt from building permitting, you still do need a site plan approval to show us where you're going to put it and let us review it to make sure it meets requirements."


Airport terminal building improvements planned
-- you can vote for your favorite design elements

(Posted April 24, 2014)


Go here to view concepts and vote for your favorites:

https://survey.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9WtlE6DiJyssfpb

Voting is open through May 31.


The city issued this announcement today:


Over the past two years the city of Casa Grande has been making much needed improvements and repairs to the Casa Grande Municipal Airport.  

Improvements include new LED lights on the runway, new taxiway signs, new taxiway markings and the expansion of the south terminal apron to accommodate additional hangar units.

The most recent effort has been the Airport Enhancement Project, which aims to update and improve the terminal building and surrounding landscaping to promote the airport in a professional and welcoming manner.  

To accomplish this goal, the city held a design competition and invited Arizona universities and colleges with architectural and/or interior design programs to participate.

Two groups submitted design concepts: Ashley Dolph & Marquessa Powers from the Art Institute of Phoenix, and Christina Kenny, Lindsay Duval, Brooke Erickson and Mitch Chernow from the American Institute of Interior Design. Participants were asked to incorporate elements of the community into their design concepts.

The team members’ names and school logo will be incorporated into the final design, which will be implemented at the airport over the next six months.

Airport Manager Richard Wilkie says, “The Casa Grande Municipal Airport plays an important role in economic development for the community. It provides quick and easy access to Casa Grande, and that’s important for current and prospective business leaders.  We want to create an environment that is both inviting and professional for everyone who visits our airport.”

The Casa Grande Municipal Airport is used by many corporate business leaders and airplane aficionados who keep their aircraft at the airport. A number of community events are held every year at the airport, including the Copperstate Fly-In held in October and Cactus Fly-In held in March.

For more information about the Airport Enhancement Project, contact Wilkie at 421-8600,  ext. 1250, or rwilkie@casagrandeaz.gov.


Councilman Powell asks for push to solve problem
that's preventing Evergreen area flood irrigation

(Posted April 23, 2014)


A push needs to be made to solve the problem of residents in the Evergreen area not having irrigation water, Councilman Dick Powell said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Much of the area, to the north and east of City Hall, is part of an irrigation district allowing residents to deep water, or flood irrigate, their properties.

That irrigation system has been around for years. The Evergreen Historic District survey points out that the 1928 platting of the area required that:

"All lots owners shall be required to pay their pro rata share of pumping expenses for irrigation water used on said premises …"

The problem, Powell said, is apparently that the pumping system has broken down, something that is bringing a lot of calls to him inquiring about the situation.

"What's happened right now," he said, "is that Evergreen section is no longer able to be irrigated. And going into summer, it's a bad time and people are quite excited about finding out."

Powell, speaking at the end of the meeting during council reports, said a request for bids to determine what is wrong with the pump was put out, but there has been no response so far.

What residents in the Evergreen area "would really love to have happen is really get it done as quickly as possible," he said.

"I know the ones that live there pay for it. Now whether that pays the full cost, I don't know about that, but they are billed for the irrigation and how many times they irrigate."

The area is noted for its large trees, Powell said, "and I've talked to somebody else that said in another community what happens is when you flood irrigate a lot of those roots are way out to the edges (of the property)  and if they don't get watered right the trees start to die. In their community they had a lot of those trees die.

"There's so much pride in people that bought land in that Evergreen area because of the trees and everything, they're real concerned."

Addressing Deputy City Manager Larry Rains, Powell asked for "anything we could do to kind of push that along and try to get somebody to give an estimate and let people understand what it is, are they going to need to get the hoses out and run all summer, what do we need to do. 

"I think the biggest question right, is they're just wondering what's happening."


Police cars, street sweeper get initial approval

(Posted April 21, 2014)


Casa Grande City Council actions Monday night include:

• Gave initial approval to purchase of eight 2014 Chevrolet Caprice patrol vehicles for the Police Department at a cost of $251,541. 

• Gave initial approval to purchase of a street sweeper at a cost of $223,029.

• Gave initial approval to purchasing a front-load chassis for the Sanitation Division at a cost of $73,770. It includes an existing for lift body.

• Gave initial approval to changes in various city codes. Explanations are in the staff report of the agenda item HERE.

• Accepted the resignation of Regis Sommers from the Board of Appeals and appointed Kenneth Miller.

• Reappointed Louise E. Zals to the Heritage Commission.

• Appointed Bill Bridwell to the Historic Preservation Commission.

• Forwarded local approval to the Arizona Board of Liquor Licenses and Control for extending the patio permit for Wonder Bar for motorcycle events on May 3, Aug. 2 and Oct. 4.


Fire sprinklers for residential care or assisted living
homes before City Council during Monday meeting

UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council meeting of April 21


(Posted April 18, 2014)


You'll find the regular council agenda for Monday HERE


The study sessions agenda is HERE


Scroll down page for earlier story on property maintenance code proposal


One of the City Code changes to be discussed by the City Council during Monday night's meeting concerns sprinkling systems in residential care or assisted living homes.

It's part of the Planning and Development Department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during an earlier briefing for the City Council.

The recommendation to the council is to retain four areas from the 2003 code regarding sprinkler systems. Those exemptions are:

• R-4 group occupancies, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, shall not be required to install automatic sprinkler system unless there is an upward change in the number of occupants the facility is licensed to care for.

• State licensed residential care/assisted living facilities in which all of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to an emergency situation without assistance from another person.

• State licensed care/assisted living facility, legally existing as of March 30, 2008, in which some of the care recipients are capable of self-preservation and responding to emergency situations without assistance from another person.

• (Multifamily) occupancies with less than 5,000 square feet.

In the 2003 version, Tice told the council, "We also added a definition defines residential/assisted. We carried that definition forward. Basically it's a group for six to 10 people and it's a wide range of various group homes.

"And the reason why that definition is important is because it relates to whether or not these group homes are required to have fire sprinkler or not. 

"The 2012 building code requires all residential occupancies essentially to be sprinkled.

"So as a local amendment, we say no. Here in Casa Grande we're going to have four exceptions to that rule, and those are the same exceptions we had in the 2003 code."

In describing the categories, Tice said the R-4 occupancy "is really a group home with six to 10 people that if it legally existed as of when we adopted the prior code shall not be required to install sprinkler system unless there's an upward change in the number of occupants.

"So, it's licensed for eight and they're going to increase it to 10, we will require sprinkling if they're an R-4 occupancy. In an R-4 occupancy, the occupants would not be capable of self preservation."

The second category, Tice said, covers state-licensed residential care/assisted living facilities that offer care to ones capable of self preservation in an emergency situation without assistance. 

"So" he said, "you could build today a new residential care/assisted living for 10 people as long as they are all capable self preservation in an emergency, no sprinkler system is required.

"If you think about in this particular category, there's different kinds of group homes. You might be group home for elderly, group home for mentally disabled, you may have a group home for recovering alcoholics. They're very different groups in terms of ability to self preserve in cases of emergency, so this particular exemption acknowledges that."

The third exemption is basically the same as the first, Tice said, "but we left it in even though it probably covers almost the same territory as the number one exemption."

Public hearings. sometimes testy, were held over several months as the proposals were being put together.

"We had a lot of discussion," Tice said. "We invited all the operators of existing group homes of six to 10 to our public hearing and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the existing group homes that are not sprinkled where people are not capable of self preservation should be sprinkled or not.

"Our initial proposal was they should be sprinkled, over a certain period of time. We've backed off that and based on the testimony we heard and we're staying with the current 2003 amendments that are in place that does not require them to sprinkle unless they increase their occupant load."


Casa Grande unemployment rate goes to 7.8%

(Posted April 17, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Check other counties HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.8 percent during March, up from 7.4 during February. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,633 people out of work during March, up from 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 3.9 percent jobless rate for March 2007, the year before the economy crashed. That was 654 people without work. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County also had a March rate of 7.8 percent jobless (11,069 without work), up from 7.5 during February. The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for March. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.4 percent jobless rate for March (348 unemployed), up from 7.1 percent during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

12.1 rate for March (484 jobless), up from 11.6 during February. The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

10 rate for March (321 jobless), up from 9.7 during February. The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.4 rate for March (1,495 jobless), up from 7.2 during February. The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


City working on updating airport layout plan

(Posted April 16, 2014)


Casa Grande is seeking professionals to prepare an updated airport layout plan, leading the facility into the future.

The work includes documenting the current and future short-term facility, operational and management challenges that the airport faces, including recommendations on how to handle them. Forecasts of aviation demands is also to be included, as is a financial plan.

The existing layout of the airport is to be documented and a proposed layout plan submitted.


You'll find the complete request for qualifications HERE


You'll find the airport master plan at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/airport-master-plan/


General airport information is at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/publicworks/airport/


High-speed rail link comment period continues

(Posted April 8, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The public comment period continues for the Arizona Department of Transportation's passenger rail study. 

The ADOT Passenger Rail Corridor Study is part of the department’s long-range plan to determine what it will take to construct a rail line to link Phoenix and Tucson, while meeting demands for future growth and travel options along Interstate 10, one of the busiest highway corridors in Arizona.

Seven alternatives have been narrowed to three. The city of Casa Grande endorses the GREEN alternative (running down Interstate 10).

 

View the alternatives online and take a survey today at the main website:

http://www.azdot.gov/planning/CurrentStudies/PassengerRail


You'll find the alternatives maps here

http://www.azdot.gov/docs/default-source/planning/final-alternatives-2013.pdf?sfvrsn=0


Ross honored for almost 25 years with city

Mayor Bob Jackson, above right, reads from a plaque honoring Gilbert Ross for almost 25 years with the city. At left, Ross addresses the council during his retirement ceremony.


(Posted April 7, 2014)


Gilbert Ross was honored by the City Council during Monday's meeting upon his retirement as a parks maintenance worker overseeing irrigation systems.

Ross began with the city Dec. 11, 1989, retiring this April 4, meaning almost 25 years on the job.

"It's bittersweet when we have retirees come in" Major Bob Jackson told Ross, "because while it's nice to see that you're retiring, we hate to see you go.

"For those who don't know, Gilbert worked for what's now the Community Services Department, used to be the Parks and Recreation Department.

"You've handled the irrigation systems for as long as I've known, so for those of you in the Evergreen District that have irrigation, Gilbert is the guy that's taken care of you all these years."

"Gilbert, I wish you well in retirement and I'm sure it will be a nice long retirement. I hope you have lots of plans and things to do. Thank you, Gilbert, for your service."

Ross was given a plaque marking his service and a camcorder as a retirement gift.

"You can go on YouTube," Jackson said.

Ross said, "I want to thank the mayor, the City Council, the city manager for the great job you do for the city, keep us working and keep the city move along.

"It's been a pleasure and a blessing to work here for the city of Casa Grande."

Councilman Dick Powell said, "Gilbert, you have time to go hunting now."

Jackson added, "And he's got a camcorder to record it."


First step taken to clear way for major bakery on west side keying to healthy food products

(Posted April 5, 2014)


You'll find the Food for Life philosophy and other information at

http://www.foodforlife.com/


Definitions of zoning districts, such as I-1



The old song asks, Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy …

Well, in Casa Grande it depends upon where you're located. Your kitchen, OK; big bakeries, not always.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has sent a recommendation to the City Council to change that, opening the way for a 150,000-square-foot bakery keying on the health angle, including breads, buns, cereals, croutons, English muffins, pasta, pocket breads, tortillas, vegan meats and waffles.

As it now stands, on-site sale bakeries of less than 3,500 square feet are allowed in the four business zoning districts. Bakeries larger than that are allowed only in the I-2 zoning district.

That leaves Food for Life out in the cold. It's a California baking company that bought a 75,000-square-foot building at Gila Bend Highway and Thornton Road, intending to double it in size. 

The problem is, the location is in the I-1 zoning district -- bakeries not permitted.

An irony is that other food processing businesses such as Daisy Brand, Franklin Foods, Ehrmann/Commonwealth Dairy are I-1 district neighbors, thus legal because they are not bakeries.

As City Planner Keith Newman put it for the commission, "They're all food processing uses and these are uses that are very similar to a large commercial, industrial type of bakery. In fact, from the outside of these businesses you would probably not even be able to tell the difference between those food processing uses and the bakery that is being proposed by the Food for Life bakery company."

Simply put, the proposed changes delete the size regulations, classing the business districts as retail bakery allowed. The industrial designations would change to bakery commercial in both I-1 and I-2.

The identify retail bakery as "an establishment primarily engaged in preparing, baking or cooking baked products for on-site retail sales for on-site or off-site consumption, secondly to include incidental on-site food service and distribution to local businesses."

A commercial bakery is defined as "an industrial establishment primarily engaged in manufacturing and distributing of baked products."

Member Ruth Lynch asked if Food for Life would be able to have an area for local retail sales.

"That definition does not stop them from having an accessory sales type area somewhere inside the building," Newman responded. "Food for Life told me that they would probably be selling a product that maybe it's not bad product, it's just stuff that doesn't meet their exact specifications. Maybe it doesn't fit in the bag properly or it's too big, it comes out of the oven too big. Stuff like that that they would possibly or potentially be able to sell on-site. They might have a little tiny store where you can go in and buy their products. So that definition does not preclude them from doing that."

Newman pointed out that bakeries in supermarkets such as Fry's or Safeway do not fall under the regulations because baking is only a small part of the main grocery business.


Automation at a city landfill? Yep, it happens

(Posted April 3, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE



When automation is mentioned, we generally think of office equipment, computers and other such things.

But for a city landfill?

Yep.

Casa Grande has issued a request for bids for a replacement for the Tarpomatic 40-foot automatic trapping machine used for alternative daily cover for the active landfill work area.

In case this turns you on, the specifics are:

• Minimum 40-feet-wide tarping capability. 

• Electric-start diesel engine with remote operation. 

• Tarp spool removable from the machine when the tarp is completely deployed to

allow installation of replacement spool and deployment of second tarp.

• Must be adjustable to custom fit and be transported by the blade of a landfill dozer and/or compactor, facilitating quick and easy attachment and removal from

dozer and/or compactor.

Bids are due to the city by April 22.


Proposed property maintenance code keys
on keeping buildings in habitable condition



Pictures used to illustrate a presentation by Planning and Development Director Paul Tice about a property maintenance code were of the former funeral home at Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, long fallen into major disrepair.

UPDATE: Initial approval was given during the City Council meeting of April 21.


(Posted April 1, 2014)


A property maintenance code is being put together by the Casa Grande Planning and Development Department, the first time the city has had such regulations. It's aimed at requiring habitable structures.

The code has not yet been adopted by the City Council and is not in effect.

It's part of the department looking at the model 2012 codes offered by the International Building Code Council. Those model codes, issued about every three years, are not mandatory, allowing cities to reject them, adopt them as a whole or amend them to meet city needs.

Casa Grande now operates under codes from 2003. Those were to be updated, but that was halted when the Arizona Legislature, under another law to control cities, banned updates. That has now been lifted, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during a briefing for the City Council.

Only about half of the IBCC property maintenance code would be adopted, Tice said, because the city already has equivalent codes covering those areas.

"For example," he said, "a lot of the (IBCC) property maintenance code talks about the exterior appearance of properties, with maybe rubbish storage, junk storage, those kinds of things, which are already covered in our public nuisance codes. So our guideline was, if we already had an existing code in place that addressed the issue, we didn't to adopt a new code."

Tice said the regulations the city would adopt from the proposed IBCC property maintenance code "really are those that talk about that the structure has to remain habitable. The structure has to have a roof that is not leaking, electrical system that's working, a plumbing system that's working. The floors cannot be rotting out or there can't be situations where the bathtub's falling through the floor."

The proposed amendments would be a tool for the city, Tice said, "to address that situation where there might be a rental, a situation with a tenant and they have a landlord where there are problems with the living unit that are making it uninhabitable and the landlord just won't respond, won't fix, won't do anything.

"I guess the interesting thing to think about with this maintenance code, though, is it doesn't force the landlord to repair a structure. What it does, it tells the landlord if he wants to continue to rent it and for it to be occupied, he has to make those repairs. The landlord or property owner can choose to just vacate the premises and not have anyone living there. 

"Really, this is a property maintenance code, minimum maintenance for habitation, that's the way to think about it.

"If it's uninhabitable, the property owner won't, can't make the repairs, not habitable and they vacate it, we still have our process of saying it's a vacant structure, is it safe or unsafe?

If it's unsafe structure, you still have the process to deal with that in our existing code, which is demolition. We can board it up and make sure it's secured from trespass."

Councilman Dick Powell pointed out that there have been situations with "people that couldn't afford except what they were living in and they were worried if they said something about their landlord he'd kick them out and then they were on the street. Some of them had leaking plumbing behind walls where you had mold accumulating and those kind of things, and felt helpless to do anything about it. This gives them a way to be protected and the city a way to address those situations, so I appreciate that."

There much discussion about the proposal, Councilman Matt Herman said, "and we want to walk the fine line between property rights for the owner and safe habitation. "We didn't want to turn into an HOA as a city. This is more about health and public safety. That was a big consideration that Paul went through and I think we came up with a good solution to where we're not being an HOA but we're making sure that people are in safe situations."

As Tice put it for the council, "It's nowhere near some of those architectural design regulations that an HOA might have.

"Really, the code we're proposing for the property maintenance code are pretty severe code violations, health, safety violations or habitable space. Peeling paint, it's not going to be a violation. But if you have a hole in your roof and the rain's coming in, it would be a violation if someone's living there. If you have stairs, the stairs have to be maintained safe so you can walk on them and use them."

Tice suggested that the council hold a formal study session to go over proposed code amendments in detail. Final versions of the proposals have not been released.


Weeds taking over your alley? You're responsible 
for whacking them down to head off a fire hazard

(Posted March 30, 2014)


You'll find the complete City Code at

http://www.amlegal.com/library/az/casa_grande.shtml


Are weeds taking over your alley?

It's your responsibility to whack them down so that they don't cause a fire hazard.

According to the City Code, you are responsible for upkeep of alleys to the centerline.

A complaint about weeds came from John T. Holland, a frequent complainer about various matters, during the last City Council meeting.

"We now have a crop of weeds growing in the alleyways," he said. "We used have the Fire Department provide a warning, quite awhile back.

"Nobody seems to care. I've had to actually cut some grass away from places (around his Cholla Street home) so I wouldn't have a problem.

"It's bad, I'm telling you. Our alleyways are something else right now."

Mayor Bob Jackson told Holland, "We will get on that. Good point. It's that time of year where it starts drying up."

So far, the city has not posted a general notice on its website.


The City Code has this to say about weeds: 


Section 302.4 

Weeds. All developed premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds in excess of twelve (12) inches. Vacant undeveloped properties shall be maintained free from weed in excess of twenty-four (24) inches. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens.

"Upon failure of the owner or agent having charge of a property to cut and destroy weeds after service of a notice of violation, they shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with Section 114 of the Administrative Code and as prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction. Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the jurisdiction or contractor hired by the jurisdiction shall be authorized to enter upon the property in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the costs of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property.


8.12.140  

Public rights-of-way owner of adjacent property to maintain.

The owner or person in control of any private property shall at all times maintain adjacent unutilized street right-of-way and the portion of the alley contiguous with the property up to the centerline of the alley free of litter.


8.12.300  Abatement procedure.

A. The city shall give reasonable written notice to abate any violation of this chapter to all persons with an interest in the property or agents of such persons.

B. Notice shall contain: 

   1. The legal description of the property;

   2. The cost of such removal to the city if notified persons do not comply;

   3. A date for compliance which shall not be less than 30 days after the date notice was given;

   4. Identification of the property in violation by street address if it exists; and

   5. A statement of the violation(s) in sufficient detail to allow a reasonable person to identify and correct them.

C. Said written notice shall be either personally served, mailed by certified mail at their last known address or the address to which the tax bill for the subject property was last sent; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.

D. The city may record the notice in the Office of Pinal County Recorder.  If such notice is recorded and compliance with the notice is subsequently satisfied, the city shall record a release of the notice.

(Ord. 1397.08.07 § 3 (part), 1998)


8.12.310  

City abatement upon failure to abate by person with interest in property.

A. Upon failure of any notified person, to abate a public nuisance within compliance time set in the written notice, the city may remove, abate, enjoin or cause removal of the violation.

B. Removal, abatement, or the acquisition of an injunction may be accomplished, at the sole discretion of the city, by city staff or an independent contractor.

C. The city manager, or his authorized representative, shall prepare a verified statement and account of the actual cost of abatement action, legal fees, additional inspection and other incidental connected costs.

D. The amount in the verified statement and account is declared as an assessment upon the lot or tract of land on which the violation occurred.  Said assessment may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as other city assessments are collected.

E. A copy of the statement and account shall be personally delivered; sent by certified mail, return receipt requested; or served in accordance with the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure to all persons with an interest in the property and/or their agents.

F. The assessment shall be recorded in the Pinal County Recorder's Office and from the date of its recording shall be a lien on the lot or tract of land and the several amounts assessed against the lot or tract of land until paid.


Casa Grande jobless rate drops 1 percent to 7.4

(Posted March 27, 2014)


You can check other cities in the state HERE


Partial unemployment statistics posted today by the Arizona Department of Administration show Casa Grande with a jobless rate of 7.4 percent during February, down from 8.4 during January. 

The statistics for Casa Grande showed 1,740 people out of work during January, dropping to 1,527 for February. 

Casa Grande had a 4.2 percent jobless rate for February 2007, the year before the economy crashed. The 2007 average was 4.1, or 693 out of work.

Pinal County had a February rate of 7.5 percent jobless (10,450 without work), down from 8.3 during January (11,671). The county's 2013 average was 8.8 (12,112 jobless).

Statistics from the state usually include unincorporated areas and Indian communities, but the state said those figures are still being revised, thus only cities are included for January and February. No release date for the other statistics was given.

Other cities' statistics are:

Coolidge

7.1 percent jobless rate for February (329 unemployed), 7.9 percent during January (367 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.2 percent (379 unemployed).

Eloy

11.7 rate for February (457 jobless), 12.9 during January (510). The 2013 average rate was 13.3 (527 jobless).

Florence

9.7 for February (305 jobless), 10.3 for January (326). The 2013 average rate was 9.8 (309 jobless).

Maricopa city

7.2 for February (1,431 jobless), 8.1 for January (1,612 jobless). The 2013 average rate was 8.1 (1,605 jobless).


Is your business ready?
City offers 64-page business disaster preparedness guide

(Posted March 26, 2014)


Although often overlooked, there's a package on the city website that will help your business prepare for a disaster, be it natural or otherwise.

The 64-page package is entitled Disaster Preparedness for Businesses: Ready Your Business.


You can download it from the city website at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/05/Ready-Your-Business-Guidebook-final.pdf


There are several parts to the package, with checklists and guides covering various emergency situations and costs, but the main one is called 12-Point Program For Success Business Continuity Planning Guidebook.

Those points are:

• Creating a Planning Team

Identify who needs to be on the “team” to effectively represent the organization.

• Continuity of Authority

Designating the chain of authority within the organization and departments.

• Risks and Hazards

Assist the planner in determining a priority and procedure for each potential business interruption by assessing risks and hazards. Evaluating the cost of downtime.

• Internal Resources and Capabilities/External Resources

Evaluate each department or area of the organization to identify resources and capabilities. Identify what external resources are available to the planner and the organization in planning and response.

• Vulnerability Assessment

Planning should include an all hazard analysis to identify types of emergency. Complete a vulnerability assessment.

• Essential Business Functions

Determine each “function” that generates revenue or is essential to normal business operations. Identify what functions must be operating for recovery. Recognize the most critical, time sensitive and analyze cost of downtime.

• Human Resources: Employee/Owner Contacts

Review what you should know about your employees, how to communicate, train and prepare for unexpected events.

• Workplace Evacuation and Sheltering Plan

Safety of employees, customers and clients – Do you evacuate, stay in place or both?

• Workplace Emergency Supply Kit

What should every facility have in case of an emergency? Is there a liability for a business that doesn’t? What should an employee provide?

• Insurance Coverage Review

Most business rely on an insurance policy to carry them through a disaster. Find out what may save your business from permanent closure.

• Vital Records

Identify what is “vital” to normal business operations.

• Data Protection/Storage/Recovery

Protect against the number-one business interruption by developing a backup program and offsite storage procedure with a data recovery program. Establish procedures to safeguard data against outside attacks and employee error. Protect your business against compromised personal information. Test the plan.


CG seeks operator for cafe at main library

(Posted March 25, 2014)


You'll find the request at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/RFQ-MainLibraryCafeEatery.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking an operator for a coffee shop/cafe in the renovated downtown library on Drylake Street, expected to open next month.

According to the request for proposals, the city wants a menu that focuses on foods that require only warming, cooling, or finishing on site, such as salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and juices.

The request for proposals say the coffee shop/cafe space on the east side of the building will be 140 square feet, with another 70 square feet for storage. Seating will be available in the hallway adjacent to the café and on the 720-square-foot outdoor patio.

The operation would be open during normal library hours.

"In addition to daily staff and customers, there are frequent meetings and events at the Main Library, which may provide food service and catering opportunities from time to time," the request says. "The Main Library is receptive to ideas about additional special events/catering opportunities that the successful proposer may suggest."


Casa Grande embarking on extensive project
to upgrade emergency communications system

(Posted March 19, 2014)


The request is HERE


Additional documents are HERE


Casa Grande is embarking on a major project to upgrade and modernize its emergency communications system.

According to the posting asking for qualified proposals, the work will be to provide and start up a computer-aided dispatch/records management system for the police and fire departments. Additionally, the system would include a law enforcement records management system, mobile data computing, automated field reporting, automatic vehicle location system and conversion of existing records. Training in the new operation would also be provided.

Computer-aided dispatch is the system that manages 911 and nonemergency calls for service and the sending of the calls to police officers or firefighters.

The records management system stores case records and creates statistical reports.

                                          (Story continues below chart)

"The purpose of this project is to implement an updated CAD/RMS for use by public safety departments enabling all users to better analyze public safety trends, link crimes and events, identify suspects or patients, and improve the quality of field reporting and statistical reports," the request says.

"The CAD/RMS project is created to replace the existing CAD/RMS solutions, which the city has used for more than 15 years. The primary drivers of the project are the limited level of functionality offered by the existing system, aging hardware and software, technical support concerns, and to ensure the safety of department personnel. 

"The ultimate goal is to create a combined public safety Emergency Communications Center that encompasses joint communications functions for police, fire and emergency medical resources, and includes an Emergency Operations Center. 

"Casa Grande’s long-range vision includes becoming a regional ECC in support of the needs of neighboring jurisdictions."

The request says specific project objectives include:

• Re-engineer business processes to increase efficiency.

• Reduce handwritten forms and duplication of effort (e.g. entering same data into multiple systems).

• Eliminate nonenterprise level databases and spreadsheets used to track data.

• More accurately deploy resources. For example, dispatchers and supervisors in the field will be able to determine where units are located within the city, as these units respond to calls in real time. This will lower response times for all public safety units.

• Staff can compile and publish frequently used statistical reports without the assistance of technical staff and without the need to access multiple databases.

• Units can write and file incident reports in the field. 

• The CAD/RMS will be available to their users at least 99.99 percent of the time, on a

24/7/365 basis, within six months of implementation.

• Increased safety to units as more information will be available directly within the vehicles.

• Accurate data conversion of selected data ranges and fields.

• Use mapping capabilities within CAD system.

• Technical architecture will comply with current Casa Grande standards.

• Provide ability to analyze public safety incidents for commonalities, trends, and patterns.

After proposals have been received and evaluated, the best qualified one will go before the City Council in September.

"For planning purposes," the request says, "the city Of Casa Grande has identified a total installation timeframe spanning up to 24 months from the date of City Council authorization and execution of the contract for successful completion of the system implementation activities, no later than Oct. 31, 2016."

The communications center, with expansion of work areas and modernization of the building almost complete, is located in the old Police Department building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard.


Description

The Police Department's website and part of the request give this description of the Public Safety Communications Division:

The Public Safety Communications of the Police Department provides the personnel that link the public with the sworn officers in the field. The division has 15 public safety clerk positions whose functions include 911 operator, public safety dispatcher, records clerk, receptionists, secretary, and supervisor. Public Safety Communications is currently under the command of Mike Brashier.

Civilian personnel are most often the first line of communications with the general public, whether handling “walk in” citizens requests for service or answering 911 emergency calls for both the Police Department and Fire Department. 

Civilian employees classify and prioritize the calls for service, dispatch officers as needed, record dispositions of calls, then handle the follow up paper work. The followup work consists of data entry into the department’s computer system, filing of reports, and transferring reports to related agencies and entities such as prosecutors, courts, and insurance companies.

Public safety dispatchers (911 operators) attend to incoming calls on eight phone lines, 10 911 lines, four extensions and one Silent Witness line. 

They must also enter all calls for service into the police computer to dispatch the calls. Other duties include fulfilling records requests, processing and filing incoming paperwork, data entry of all citations and police reports into the computer system, criminal history inquiries in the state’s crime computer, submitting fingerprints through the state’s automated fingerprint identification system, and numerous other tasks to keep the internal operation of the department organized and efficient.

Supervisors in the division perform as “working supervisors,” doing one of the above jobs in addition to assisting with scheduling, completing employee evaluations, supervising civilian employees, and completing projects assigned by the commander.

When not assigned as a 911 operator or public safety dispatcher, the public safety clerks function as records clerks assisting in the records duties. 

These duties include forwarding reports to other criminal justice agencies, preparing statistical information, uniform crime reporting to the state and FBI, and other secretarial duties for the chief of police and his three division commanders.

State lands firefighting agreement renewed

(Posted March 18, 2014)


The reimbursement rates are HERE


The agreement with the Arizona State Land Department to reimburse Casa Grande and the Fire Department for time and equipment to help fight fires on state lands and during natural disasters has been renewed.

Approval was given by the City Council during Monday night's meeting.

The two-year contract replaces one that expires March 31.

"State Land establishes the standardized rates for equipment only," the staff report says. "They pay our actual cost of personnel plus employee related expenses, including backfill. This can be at either the straight or overtime rate. All fire fighting vehicles are charged by the hour for their use and a command vehicle is charged by the day, plus mileage. 

"This agreement provides the reimbursement mechanism for wildland deployments and other natural disasters such as flooding where mutual aid is provided for extended operating periods. This agreement is also required for any Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement for local disaster recovery cost associated with mitigation and recovery.

"Revenues collected through this established rate agreement will cover our actual cost of wages, training and equipping the wildland team."


O'Neil/Trekell traffic signal goes active today

(Posted March 17, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The 4-way traffic signal at the intersection of Trekell Road and O’Neil Drive is expected to be fully operational on Tuesday, March 18. 

Please slow down and watch for pedestrians in the crosswalk.


The question: If a $30,000 truck has done well,
why replace it with one costing twice as much?

(Posted March 17, 2014)


You'll find the staff report HERE


If you have a $30,000 Sanitation Division truck that has lasted for 15 years, now with 92,903 miles on it, why would you want to spend more than twice as much to replace it with a more expensive vehicle?

That was the question Monday night before the City Council.

The request was that the present vehicle, a Dodge Ram 35000, be replaced by a 2015 Freightliner chassis equipped with an existing fork lift body. That would cost $73,770, which the staff report says is a 33 percent reduction from the list price.

"Specifications for this vehicle include the necessary options as required for safe and serviceable operation for our Sanitation Division," the report says. "Included are the government mandated emission technology for near zero emissions; heavy-duty batteries and charging system; heavy-duty upgraded driveline & skid protection; anti-lock braking system; front engine power take off; and upgraded rear tires. This will not only insure a longer useful life span, but add to the value of the vehicle when replaced after its life cycle is complete. The cab and chassis, engine and transmission unit are covered under a 2 year standard warranty."

As Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith put it during his presentation to the council, "We use this to deliver our front end trash containers for various commercial accounts and we also use it to deliver some of our larger containers. It's met its requirements for replacement so we're asking to move forward. We're going with a more robust chassis which will allow us to move large pieces of equipment and it will be easier on everybody."

Councilman Matt Herman had reservations.

"Going from a Dodge 3500 to a  Freightliner, that's quite a big jump up," he said. "And looking at the numbers here, the old Dodge is a 1999, has almost a hundred thousand miles. It's a 15-year-old truck, seems like it's been serving us well. A $30,000 truck compared to the $73,000 truck. I don't see the need."

It's basically the heavier construction, Smith replied.

"Right now, our piece of equipment is undersized compared to the industry standards for doing this kind of work," he continued. "We keep pushing it, we've been lucky. As we continue to grow, as we get more containers, larger containers, things like that, we believe it's really an appropriate investment."

Herman asked if there have been safety issues or problems with the present truck.

"I can't tell you that," Smith answered. "I didn't really look into that."

Councilman Dick Powell asked if there are now some large trash containers that crews are having trouble handling with the present vehicle or if it is anticipated that more large ones will be purchased.

Smith responded that, "As we grow, we'll probably be bringing in more. The guys have been saying that the one we have, it's pushing them as they try to do their rounds, it's hard for them to get the equipment out. Again, per the industry standards, this particular body is more in line with what the industry standards are for this kind of work."

Mayor Bob Jackson remarked that, "If you do the math, it's a huge jump in the price."

Herman said he would like more information about the proposed purchase, especially if it will really be needed, given that there is now competition from private trash haulers.

"From a business standpoint," he said, "a 15-year-old truck and I've not heard any problems with it before. A $30,000 vehicle and now we've got to buy a $73,000 truck. I just question that in the budget, how we spend over twice as much."

City Manager Jim Thompson said the request could be table until more detailed information is brought back to the council.

Jackson said part of that information could be maintenance records. If they show that the city is spending large amounts of money to maintain the present vehicle, that would change the picture.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said she would like that information to include how many cities in the state are using the newer equipment and how many are using older vehicles.

Jackson suggested also surveying private trash collectors to see what type of vehicles they use.

In moving to table the issue, Powell said, "It's not a huge amount of money, but it's double what we spent before, so I think we do need to ask the questions and determine, go from there."

The vote to table was unanimous.

In other action Monday night, the council approved a right of way easement with Sundance1. An agenda item on resubdividing Arroyo Grande was removed from the agenda before the meeting began. That was to be discussed in the private executive session following the meeting.


Pavement resurfacing for three subdivisions 
now under way; other areas, roads to come

(Posted March 14, 2014)


Work on resurfacing streets in three Casa Grande subdivision begins Monday, March 17, with work in other areas authorized but yet to be scheduled.

The work is in McCartney Center subdivision Monday through Friday, March 21. Between March 24-April 1 the street work will be done in Village subdivision, followed by Mission Royale from April 21-25.

"Construction crews will be working from 7 a.m.-5:00 p.m.," the city announcement said. "While work is under way, there will be lane restrictions, but one lane will remain open in each direction at all times. Access to businesses will be maintained and advance notification will be given. Motorists are advised to please obey all traffic signs and slow down in construction zones. Thanks for your patience."

Not yet scheduled is resurfacing in the Meyers Homesites, Sierra Ranch and Rancho Palo Verde subdivisions.

Work not yet scheduled on streets includes Arizola Road from Cottonwood Lane south to East Penny Lane, Hacienda Road from Kortsen Road to Florence Boulevard, Cottonwood Lane from Interstate 10 to Overfield Road, Kortsen Road from Hacienda Road to Signal Peak Road, Overfield Road north from Florence Boulevard to the city limits, Selma Highway from South Mitchell Road to North Toltec Buttes Road, and West Peters Road from South Chuichu Road to the city limits.

The work is part of annual maintenance program on the city's 409 miles of streets.

In asking during the last City Council for approval of two contracts totaling $1,297,087, Public Works Director Kevin Louis said, "These are pavement segments that are deteriorating at a rapid pace and don’t necessarily match the data that we got from our pavement management system. This is not unusual. We’re in the first five years of our pavement management system, this is just one of those anomalies that we came across. 

"The majority of the roads we’re looking at are rural roads that were part of our recent annexations and they are deteriorating at a faster rate and we need to do something now. Otherwise, we’re going to end up spending a lot more money."

Councilman Matt Herman said he had had comments from residents asking why the city was spending more than a million dollars for street work.

"I say this is one of our biggest assets," Herman said, noting that a presentation on the annual financial report showed total valuation of city property at about $300 million. Louis later told CG News that the original value of streets in the city was $204 million. With normal depreciation, he said, the value is about $120 million.

As Herman sees it, "We have to maintain this stuff because it’s going to cost us a lot more in the long run. I know it’s a lot of money to spend, but we need to maintain our roads."

Herman also asked why those rural area roads are deteriorating. "Do we know the type of traffic?" he asked. "Is it heavy trucks?"

Louis responded that, "I think typically what you see in the rural areas, unincorporated Pinal County, those roadways were developed at a different standard. They’re not developed at an urban level standard, they weren’t developed to handle truck traffic and those types of things.

If you go out there on any given day, the amount of traffic traveling across these roads has really increased.

"Typically, a pavement is a double chip seal and then they build on top of that. This (deterioration) is a typical reaction when these roads get to a certain age.

"Our deterioration curve that we have in our system puts it about a 10-year downslide and these are dropping just much more drastically. So we're just having to react and not having the chance to be as proactive as we want to be on these particular roads."

Councilman Karl Montoya, noting that the Public Works Department has a computerized pavement management system, yet the deterioration was described by Louis as an anomaly.

"A $1.3 million anomaly," Montoya said. "How much of it (maintenance) was kind of scheduled and how much was kind of like out of the blue?"

Louis said Public Works is in the process of developing its five-year plan for streets.

"Some of these roadways had come up as part of that plan," he said," but when you go out there and really look at the actual condition and you track our work orders where we're doing our patching out there, it didn't match the pavement condition indexes that were being developed out of our pavement management system. 

"I don't know if when we did the original data collection we got bad data. It's very hard to tell. Sometimes you can have a great subgrade and your pavement is just terrible, otherwise vice versa."

Given that, Montoya asked how much Public Works could rely on the pavement management system.

"That is a great tool," he said, "but, I mean, do we look for more anomalies coming out of it, I guess is what I'm looking at. I'm sure we're getting better with it, but how comfortable are we with it now?"

Louis said the department is very comfortable with the management system.

"Each year, we're going to have better data and with better data we're going to be able to make better decisions," he said. "What the tool's really going to help us do is forecast what our spending is going to be five to 10 years out, so that we can start to look at what is that revenue stream we need to support that type of effort. Currently, our revenue streams don't support what we see five to 10 years out, so we do need to take a close look at that. We're working on that every day."

It's sort of no-win situation, Councilman Dick Powell said.

"As Matt brings out," he continued, "if you spend a lot of money, people say you're spending a lot of money, but if the streets don't get fixed people are saying why don't you spend money and fix them.

"And I think that the way we're doing it is probably as orderly and fair as we can be. I know there's going to be people that have issues that we're not going to make happy this year or maybe next."

Powell added that he does get questions from residents in the Toltec Buttes area, who "have asked over and over about that half mile yet on Hacienda, Hacienda from the south end of Early going out Arizona, about half a mile. I didn't know if there's any idea on when that might be paved. They'd be on a pavement if they could go from Arizola on in. 

"I know originally they thought Arizona was going to get earlier work and it turned out the expectation was built that that was going to be completed and it was going to be a nice way to go back and forth without having to go back across or go down Overfield or that way, either way you get on dirt."

Louis responded that, "Originally, we had looked at that section being paved as part of the I-10 widening project. And when they didn't move forward, we tried to logically come up with the piece that impacted our residents the most. And you're right, there is really no good way to get back into town from that area, it's an underserviced area, if you will.

"It's something we'll take a look at. Right now, we don't have a lot of plans to expand our system, we're just trying to maintain our system. But I think once we start to see more construction and we start to see those fund balances coming up, then we can start to look at some of those types of projects."

A year ago, Deputy Public Works Director Greg Smith told the council that to bring the condition all of Casa Grande’s streets up to maximum possible levels would cost almost $19 million.



Board of Adjustment OK temporary at-risk
monument sign for PhoenixMart main entry

(Posted March 12, 2014)


You'll find the staff report, with drawings HERE


The developers of the 585-acre PhoenixMart project north of Florence Boulevard three miles east of Interstate 10 want to go ahead with some work on an at-risk basis pending formal approval from the city, the Board of Adjustment was told Tuesday night.

That was brought out during discussion before the 5-1 approval of a request by PhoenixMart for a temporary use permit for 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high monument sign in four sections at what will eventually be the main entrance. 

So far, a comprehensive sign plan has not been submitted. That means that the sign will be constructed at-risk. If the Planning and Zoning Commission does not approve the comprehensive plan or the city has other objections, it will have to be torn down.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, "A comprehensive sign plan is required to be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to the construction of permanent signage for the PhoenixMart. If the comprehensive sign plan allows the type of signs constructed under the temporary use permit, then these signs will be left in place and permitted as permanent signage. If the monument wall signs installed with this temporary use permit are not approved with the comprehensive sign plan they will be removed or otherwise modified to comply with the requirements of the comprehensive sign plan."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice put it in everyday language for the board:

"If the Planning Commission in approving the comprehensive sign plan was to approve signs that differ from these, these would not be allowed to exist. They'd have to be torn down and new signs constructed that conform to whatever comprehensive sign plan the Planning Commission might approve," he said. "If you were to grant this approval, it's only good for a maximum of two years. These are at-risk signs through the temporary use permit. There's no authority for these signs to become permanent unless the comprehensive sign plan that is eventually approved allows these signs."

The long dissent vote came from board member Gordon Beck, who said he was unhappy with the size of the sign and was uncomfortable approving something that has not already been approved by the Planning Commission.

Senior Planner Leila Demaree told the board that PhoenixMart has submitted an application for a major site plan, or final development plan, which is now being revised. It has also submitted an application for a preliminary plat for the entire 585-acre site, now also being revised.

"It will take time," Demaree said. "It will require a little more time to put all those revisions together, especially that they are required to submit a traffic impact analysis to be approved by the Arizona Department of Transportation, as well as our traffic engineer for the city."

Brad Holyoak, a PhoenixMart representative who said his role is to manage the construction of the project and some of the development, outlined past problems and where the company wants to go from here.

"As you know, we've experienced some challenges in rolling out our project," he said. "And admittedly, many of those challenges are self-induced challenges.

"We're at a point now where our intention is to come to staff in the month of May with a building permit application that allows us to move forward on a full-scale building permit with our project.

"So given that, we have tried to identify several components of the project, the overall project, that we can approach prior to having that permit, admittedly on a fully at-risk basis."

PhoenixMart wants the monument sign now, Holyoak said, both to make the area attractive and to identify the location for the public and project investors.

"The lowest hanging fruit, I want to say, that makes the most sense for us is to go ahead and attempt to put in this front entryway that will provide the ultimate gateway to the project," he said. "While we are coming at it from a temporary use permit perspective, our intent is that this design and this installation ultimately be our permanent entry and signage and landscape design.

"So our intent, although temporary, is to move forward and complete our comprehensive sign plan, as well as a final landscape plan," he continued. "The landscaping will also be at-risk, and we understand that, until we have a landscape plan.

"Our intention is to develop both of those documents so that the signage and the landscape that we put in place here is ultimately the final entry landscape and signage design that will be there long term for the project."

With approval of the temporary use permit, Holyoak said, "we will come back to the city with an at-risk grading plan at the end of this week that will allow us to start grading the dirt (for the sign). The following week, we'll come back with a building permit that will allow us to build, at-risk, the signage and the landscape, provide for that installation and all of the retention and necessary dirt work that needs to happen there. There's probably a couple of weeks worth of grading that needs to happen on site, followed by two or three more weeks of installation of signage and landscape."

During that time, Holyoak continued, "what we would ultimately like to do, as we have discussed with your planning staff and with Public Works, is to identify other portions of the project that we can also begin in an at-risk fashion. 

"That primarily means the mass grading, some of the roads and some of the building sites, that we could reasonably begin that work on as an at-risk part of the project. We'll come back with an additional grading and drainage plans for staff and the Public Works Department to approve.

"We would like to proceed with that work ultimately while the building permit is being considered and reviewed between May and hopefully some time this summer, when at that point we would anticipate having a full building permit and be able to move forward with the installation of all the infrastructure, the final work on the roadways, the pad work under the main part of the mart and then the building itself.

"So our plan really at this point is once we receive permission to move forward this temporary use permit and begin this work, our goal is that work will continuously be happening on site until the project is complete next year. That's our ultimate goal."

Board member Chuck Wright pointed out that Mayor Bob Jackson has spoken of a March start date, yet Holyoak was now talking about May.

"I appreciate the question and I understand the reason for that," Holyoak responded. 

"I don't mean to imply that anybody has misled the mayor. Our intention has always been to get to a permit as early as possible. As I've said, we've had some missteps and some stumbles and some challenges, some that are our fault and some that just arise in the course of business that have led us to revise and rework some of our plans. 

"So, we have discussed that with the mayor and I have apologized personally, as have a number of people on our staff. The information that he had provided to the public has been information provided to him by us and on several occasions we have not been able to meet those expectations."

A man in the audience asked if the monument sign with five-foot-high lettering would be brightly lighted, making it a hazard to night vision along that dark section of highway.

"A final lighting plan has not been designed or approved," Holyoak answered. "The intention is for these signs to be lit, the intention is for the letters themselves to be internally lit. They will be opaque in nature so the light will be relatively subdued. We have not considered the time period the lighting will be on or off. I don't think it will be any brighter than any of the other subdivisions in their entryways."

The final vote was 5-1 for approval, with Beck dissenting. Board member Harold Vangilder had an excused absence.


Library, comm center renovations almost done

(Posted March 12, 2014)


Work on the downtown library expansion and renovating the old Police Department building into a larger communications/dispatching center is almost completed, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

"We're about 30 days away from finishing the expansion to the downtown library and to our dispatch center," he said. "Those are both projects that were made possible through a bond issue approved by the citizens about six or seven years ago. We were able to save money on some of our projects to be able to do these.

"If you've been in the main library, it is busy all the time. I had the opportunity to go look at the expansion. It's going to look really nice when we're done. We are changing the entrance, too, so if you're used to going in on the east side of the building it will be a new location. So,  be surprised."

When the Public Safety Facility was opened on Val Vista Boulevard, the old police building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard was designated to remain as a communications/dispatching center.

"Dispatch is, I think, is one of the unsung heroes of the Police Department," Jackson said.

"Their work environment was cramped in a corner of the old station. The new facility is very, very nice. More spread out, gives them areas they can work. And if you have ever have a need to call the dispatcher, you'd be really glad that they're in a nice work environment and they're happy. They do a great job."


Five projects are key to Casa Grande's future,
mayor tells audience in his State of City address

(Posted March 11, 2014)


Five projects are key to Casa Grande, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his annual State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

"This past fall, our city manager and I sat down with what we think are kind of five key projects in Casa Grande," Jackson said. "And I think moving forward it's important to coordinate those together.

"One of them certainly is the PhoenixMart project."


Scroll down on page for Jackson's PhoenixMart comments.


"We also have a project that George Chasse owns," Jackson continued. "It's on the intersection of I-8 and I-10. He's really hoping he can turn that into a corporate office center."


The City Council has ratified an earlier Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation on boundary changes for the Chasse project, known as Regional Gateway Commerce Center. Scroll far down on page for that P&Z story. 


"And again, those are future projects in Casa Grande that we think will change the complexion of who we are and where we're going," Jackson said.

"We also the Southwest Commerce Park, which is the only rail-served, shovel-ready industrial park in Arizona. It's located just west of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

"We have had the Walton Group in. The Walton Group right now owns a lot of property throughout Pinal County, but they own most of the quadrants of what will become the Kortsen Road-I-10 interchange and they're looking at several different development projects to put on that."

The fifth project, Jackson said, is work at the Performance Institute next to Francisco Grande resort. He offered no details, but said, "I know last year (at State of City) we talked some of the things going on out there with the Faldo golf school and the soccer program. We have more things that we're working on out there that I think will kind of, again, help change the complexion, the direction we hope we're going so we don't get overwhelmed by Phoenix and Tucson.

"And what was interesting about the meeting with these five landowners, they all have a common interest. And as we talked around the table, we found that many of them had common contacts, as well, so I think our job moving forward is help these people connect together in a way that they bring quality products and quality jobs into Casa Grande. And they kind of feed on each other in some degree.

"So, we're really confident that the meeting was worthwhile. I think if you talk to the five gentlemen that were there, they would agree that there's a certain amount of synergy by bringing these people in that have property ownership interests in Casa Grande that really want to see us excel over the next 10, 20, 30 years. I think maybe we planted that seed when we did that."

Other work is also being done, Jackson said.

"We are going to continue to be aggressive in economic development," he said. "We are active members in not only Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Access Arizona (formerly named Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation), but we have staff that are active in Arizona Economic Development Association, as well.

"And anything we can do to put our community in a better position to compete nationally with other communities is worthwhile."

When economic development prospects come to Casa Grande, Jackson said, they want to see what the downtown looks like.

"We finished the infrastructure downtown," he continued. "If you've not been down there this winter, a lot of activity. I actually had trouble finding a parking spot the other day. But that's a good thing. Lots of small businesses down there. And that's kind of the fabric of the community, so it's really important that we don't forget how we got to where we are. And so I think we will continue to support downtown.

"We just finished and approved a master plan for our Life on Main project, which is the stuff south of the tracks. We are really anxious to start implementing some of the findings in that.

"So hopefully over the next couple of years we'll start seeing some activity to tie all those downtown together."


A complete package of stories outlining the Life on Main project is posted under SPECIAL, above.

City seeks insurance, HR help

(Posted March 10, 2014)


You'll find the full request, with instructions, at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/insurance2014.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking help with insurance brokerage services, tied in with personnel support.

"The city is seeking a firm with experience in bid and renewal negotiation and implementation, cost containment strategies, claims and plan audits, wellness initiatives and all other insurance related 

services for Arizona municipalities and/or other governmental jurisdictions," the announcement says. 

"The successful firm should also have a compliance section in order to assist the city in the implementation of any legal changes, including but not limited to, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"Finally, we are looking toward future growth and implementation of more automated services to include on-line enrollment, human resources information system, payroll, and time and labor tracking. Therefore, the successful firm should have experience in working together on such implementation and interface solutions."

The announcement says the city now provides access to medical, dental, vision, prescription, Employee Assistance Program, life and voluntary life insurance coverage. 

"We employ an average of 380 fulltime staff, most of whom utilize the insurance plans through the city," it continues. "In addition, we employ seasonal employees that come on and off the active employee list, which often grows our staff to over 500 employees at any given time. 

"The selected proposer will be required to meet as frequently as necessary with Human Resources and any other staff members the city deems necessary, throughout the contract period. Other assistance with benefit management and employee communication may be necessary." 


Interstate 10 remains a key to future growth
in Casa Grande, mayor tells State of the City

(Las Vegas Review-Journal photo)



(Posted March 9, 2014)


Transportation — especially Interstate 10 — remains a challenge as Casa Grande plans its future, Mayor Bob Jackson said during his State of the City address last Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

“We need to widen I-10,” he said. “We are working regionally to try to make that happen. 

“I’m sure we all go to Phoenix once in awhile, and traffic is pretty bad. If you go the other way to Tucson, it's amazing how much difference that third lane makes.

“We will continue to work on trying to get I-10 widened to the north.’

Complete widening of I-10 beyond Casa Grande has been talked about for years, but has always been put off because of disagreements between the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Gila River Indian Community, through which I-10 runs to the north.

An eye must also be kept of the concept of a new Interstate 11, “which will eventually connect just north of Casa Grande with Las Vegas as kind of the first two phases,” Jackson said. “But beyond that, it goes all the way up to Boise, Idaho, and up into Canada and will become the CANAMEX Corridor.

“It’s important, I think, that we not lose focus on what the interstate system was originally built for (beginning during the Eisenhower administration). It was built for freight and for defense purposes. If we could build I-11 and move some of that truck traffic off of I-10 it would make the drive to the Long Beach (Calif.) ports and into Canada much more efficient than going down through I-10 through the urban area of Phoenix.”

Another transportation proposal that could take away from interstate 10 and 11, Jackson continued, “is this thing called the North-South Freeway that runs through Florence, Coolidge, Eloy, connects to the (I-10) freeway at Picacho with Florence Junction, more or less.

“And certainly, there's a lot of interest in that route, because it takes automobile traffic off of I-10, opens up a lot of desert land for development. But I still think that I-10 is the most important road corridor in Arizona and we can't lose sight of the fact that we need to widen that. I hope that North-South Freeway doesn't take away the importance of the I-10 story.”

Jackson said a proposal known as the East-West Corridor Study, being done joint by Casa Grande, Pinal County and the city of Maricopa, is near completion.

“It’s really to start looking at expressway type roadways that will connect from Casa Grande ultimately over to the Buckeye area,” he said. “We've had a couple of hiccups along the way, but I think we'll see that study finish up fairly soon. It's important to identify now, because if development occurs we don't want to have to be putting houses in the middle of a future roadway.”

There is also a proposal for a future interchange at Interstate 8 and Henness Road as part of the Regional Gateway Commerce Center development.

“We just recently at a City Council meeting approved some changes in a subdivision boundary to make sure that we don't build houses and buildings in the way of that proposed interchange,” Jackson said.


The council action was an affirmation of earlier approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Scroll down on this page for the earlier P&Z commerce center story and maps.


“We also are working on a project for an interchange at Kortsen Road and I-10,” Jackson said. “We hope to finish that the first part of next year. 

“One of the frequently asked questions I get is, why don't we put an interchange on Cottonwood Lane? The interstate standard is every two miles. So if you look at the way I-10 is structured, we have one at Florence Boulevard, we'll have one at Kortsen Road, we'll have one at McCartney Road, we'll have one at Val Vista. Those are two mile increments. So Kortsen Road is the next interchange, as you can see.

“We're trying to get ourselves to a point where we can identify what it's going to look like, what it's going to cost. So again, when development occurs on that corner -- and it's fairly imminent -- we don't build buildings in the way of what will be the future interchange. We're trying to get out ahead of some of the activities that are going on.”

Casa Grande works with, or belongs to, several planning agencies, including JPAC, the Joint Planning Advisory Committee, which is made up of the Maricopa Association of Government, the Central Arizona Association of Governments and the Pima Association of Governments. The new Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes Casa Grande, is also a part.

“They are transportation focused, as well,” Jackson said. “Right now, most of their focus is at the border crossings. We need to figure out how make crossing at the border more efficient, it will open up trade throughout Arizona.

“If we look at where Casa Grande is located, we think we can be the link between north-south and east-west linkages, so that border crossing becomes more and more critical.”


Despite declining or flat revenues, Casa Grande
doing great job during tough times, mayor says

(Posted March 7, 2014)


You'll find the city's comprehensive annual finance reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/finance/comprehensive-annual-financial-reports/


Despite flat sales tax income and cuts in highway funding, Mayor Bob Jackson thinks Casa Grande is doing "the best job in Arizona in working our way through the tough economic times."

Jackson outlined some city financial statistics during his State of City address on Thursday at The Property Conference Center.

He said that while going over data from Finance Director Doug Sandstrom he found that in 2008, "which was kind of the end of the building boom," (and the beginning of the national economic collapse) "our total retail sales tax revenue to the city of Casa Grande was $9.6 million. Fast forward to 2013, which is the year we just finished, $9.5 million. So $100,000 less five years later. We have estimated 2014 dollars at about $9.4 million, so again that retail sales tax, in spite of what you read about statewide sales tax, for us it's going down instead of up."

                                            (Story continues below charts)

Jackson said the total sales tax in the city is made up on different categories.

"If you look at the total sales tax, excluding construction sales, over that same five-year period of time we've been kind of stuck at $17.3 million," he said. "I was surprised that between 2008-2013 the different was less than $20,000.

"So we've been working very diligently at trying to make sure that we continue to offer city services with a very level revenue source.

"It becomes a problem, because like all of you that own businesses, our costs go up, be it utility costs, personnel costs, medical costs. And we've managed to do that with a revenue stream that has stayed fairly constant."

In 2008, Jackson said, the city collected a little over $11 million in construction sales tax. Last year, the amount of slightly over $2 million.

One bright spot in the decline of the construction sales tax is that Casa Grande made the decision early on that construction tax money was on-time funds, thus would be spent on one-time projects or equipment. Some other cities, flush with all of the construction money, expanded government, added personnel and made other commitments, only to face severe financial problems and employee layoffs when the money flow stopped.

That one-time money philosophy has continued in Casa Grande, Jackson said, "and that's why that $9 million decrease in construction sales tax has allowed us to continue to operate our services like we always have."

                                        (Story continues below chart)

Jackson said that at this point the city does not plan any cuts in services, adding that, "We're working to try to manage what's in the revenues that we have."

The city maintains a $20-million "rainy day" fund, he said, because bond ratings and interest rates are lower if the city keeps such a fund.

"Right now, we're at the AA (bond rating)," Jackson continued, "which for a community our size is phenomenal. It's been raised, I think, four times in the last five years. It's much like your mortgage: If the bond rating goes down, the interest rate goes up and our cost goes up.

"So we feel very privileged to have been able to keep our bond rating up and keep that $20 million in the bank. Our intention is to keep that money at that level."

One warning Jackson gave is that the state Legislature has a tendency to adopt laws that affect cities on the revenue or expenditure sides.

"One of the ones last year that they looked at," he continued, "was trying to alter where to collect construction sales tax. Instead of collecting it at the location that the facilities are built, they wanted to collect it at the location where the materials were bought, which means that if you're a community that doesn't have a Home Depot or a Lowes, you'd lose that sales tax. We were able to ultimately overcome that. Didn't pass, but I'm sure it will be back again at some point.

"So the caveat I give with all these factors and everything else is, we're assuming that nothing of surprise will come out of the state Legislature that will affect our ability to do our job."


Property tax rate

Even as assessed valuations go down or remain flat, Jackson said, the city will keep the present primary property tax rate at 94.89 cents per hundred dollars.

"For as long as anybody can remember, the city of Casa Grande never had a tax rate above 99 cents," he said. "Legally, we can go up to about $1.08 or $1.09, but the council said, no, we're not going to go above that 99 cent level, we're not going to do that again. Presupposing, but I'm pretty sure the council all agree not to do that with the next budget year, either.

"But that also has cost us about $150,000 last year and it will be a similar amount this year.

"That property tax revenue will come back as assessed valuations go up, but there's about a two-year lag between when property values go up and you finally see it on your tax bill."


Sam's Club opening expected next month

(Posted March 6, 2014)


Forget about the city's stagnant sales tax income, forget about streets that need repairs, forget about everything except -- when is Sam's Club opening?

Mayor Bob Jackson had a brief comment about it during Thursday's annual State of the City luncheon at The Property Conference Center.

"If you've been by there (south of Florence Boulevard east of Interstate 10), it looks like they're pretty much done," Jackson said. "We understand they hope to open the middle of next month."

City officials have consistently said that having a Sam's Club in Casa Grande would stop the sales tax leakage caused when residents drive to Costco or Sam's Club in the Phoenix Valley.

"We need those local tax dollars to stay here," Jackson said, "so hopefully Sam's Club will be a good addition for that."

Although sales tax leakage will be slowed, it's not really known how much additional revenue Sam's Club will bring to the city, but City Manager Jim Thompson told a City Council retreat a year ago that it probably won't be as much as many people originally believed.

It’s a matter of residents having only so much money to spend each month, meaning that some of what would be spent at Sam’s Club would be taken from what would have been spent at other stores.

When city officials first began discussing how much retail sales tax would be generated by Sam’s Club, Thompson said during the retreat, there were comments that, "Oh, Sam’s Club’s coming, Sam’s will probably generate twice as much as Wal-Mart, we can do this, that, we can give raises, we can buy more cars, hire more firemen, more cops."

All these things came to the table, Thompson continued, “and the answer was no! And the reason why we say no is a lot of times it’s an exchange of money. It’s like anything else when something new comes to town.

“You only have so much to spend in your marketplace. If my disposable income is $500 a month that I spent in Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, whatever the case may be, and you bring in Sam’s Club a good portion of that will be reshuffling that income.”

On the other hand, Thompson said, additional retail sales tax will be brought in from those families that now drive to the Phoenix area to buy in bulk from a Sam’s Club or Costco.

“So maybe we retain that in town, so maybe there’s some gain there,” he said.

“The other thing that may happen is when you walk into Wal-Mart and you usually spend $100, well, now you walk into Sam’s Club and you’re buying bulk so maybe you spend $150 or $200. But that means you’re going to have to cut something else. It’s always that you only have so much to spend on.”

Another important thing a Sam’s Club would do for Casa Grande, Thompson said, is that “it does attract people into the community much the same as Costco. People from outside the city who maybe jump in their car to drive to Costco or Sam’s Club in the Valley are now going to drive into Casa Grande. So it is a destination attraction, like the mall.

“They think that it will help the mall in sales as well, which it will. More people coming off the interstate and other visibilities.”



PhoenixMart project moving along, mayor says

(Posted March 6, 2014)


PhoenixMart information, although some is outdated, is available at

http://phoenixmart.com/


Companies submitting proposals for PhoenixMart infrastructure work are at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/SubmittalsPhxMartRFQ.pdf


PhoenixMart, that much talked about 1.7-million-square-foot international products showcase on 500-plus acres just north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads, is still moving along, Mayor Bob Jackson said Thursday.

Jackson, speaking at the annual State of the City luncheon at The Property Conference Center, said that because of the scale of the project -- "huge, huge" -- there have been several obstacles to overcome.

"It's probably one of the biggest we've ever seen in Casa Grande," he continued. "The current estimate is about $150 million for the PhoenixMart building itself.

"There are an array of infrastructure issues. All of those complications means that it's tough to get all the pieces together and get it going in a timely fashion. I think a lot of people get frustrated about that. But it is moving forward."

AZ Sourcing, the parent company, broke ground last November.

PhoenixMart comes before the Board of Adjustment next Tuesday for a temporary use permit for monument signs at the entrance.

"They hope to transition from that some time in the second quarter of 2014 to start putting in on-site roads and utilities," Jackson said. "And then they hope to start the building shortly after that. They're still looking at a completion date of November of 2015."

Despite the complications, Jackson continued, "I think that one of the cautions we try to give a lot of people that we've talked to is they're a huge employer and it's a huge feather in the cap of Casa Grande. Depending upon which economic study you look at, right now they're talking about employing about 8,000 people."

Where will they come from?

"I think realistically we'll have people from the East Valley and from north Tucson will drive in to take some of those jobs, as well as well as all of the local people here," Jackson said.

In the meantime, he continued, "They are working diligently. We are working through infrastructure issues with them. I think we're very close to coming up with a sewer agreement with them. My caution is, be patient, they will be here."

Because it will be mainly a showroom operation for products shipped from elsewhere, there won't be much sales tax coming to the city. Jackson said property tax money won't be seen for about three years after the opening.

"I do think the advantage is the payroll it will generate," he said. "Again -- and I don't want to harp about it -- but if we put more people to work, they have more money to spend and that will drive secondary issues like restaurants and retail and things like that."

There continues to be confusion about the extent of the project, Jackson said.

"PhoenixMart is misunderstood in a lot of quarters," he continued. "The PhoenixMart building is one piece of a very large project. A few other components were approved as part of the initial phase one project. One is a hotel and one is initially an apartment complex on the west side of the building.

"Both of those projects are also moving forward and I think the expectation is to have the hotel finished at about the same time that the PhoenixMart building itself is finished so it will be a place where international buyers can stay on site and go in and look at the products that are available in Phoenix Mart."

The final words from Jackson:

"They are coming, they are going to get here, just be patient, don't expect them to change everything overnight."


City setting on-call professional services list
    -- The background, requirements sheet HERE

Taxiway consultant sought

(Posted March 5, 2014)





The taxiway has areas of severe cracking and other problems.






You’ll find the complete request for proposals at:

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/AirportTaxiway2014.pdf


Casa Grande is seeking an aviation consultant to oversee engineering for reconstructing Taxiway E at the city airport.

The person or company selected with be involved with preliminary and design phases for work on the 30-foot-wide strip and could be retained for the bidding, negotiations and construction phases.

According to the city’s announcement, a pavement assessment found that the taxiway consists of one section with low- and medium- severity block cracking recorded throughout. The low-severity cracking was noted in unsealed condition and the medium-severity cracking was identified when the unsealed crack widths were greater than one-fourth inch. An isolated area of low-severity rutting was also observed.”

The city’s airport capital improvement program calls for rehabilitation of the taxiway, involving milling and replacing the pavement, at an estimated cost of $270,000. A grant from the aeronautics department of the Arizona Department of Transportation has been received for design of the work.

Proposals are due by March 21.

In addition to general aviation activities, the airport serves and supports emergency medical operations and jet fuel sales.


City seeking professional fire, building codes
consultant to oversee PhoenixMart planning

(Posted Feb. 26, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for qualifications HERE 

The list of bidders submitting applications is HERE


Casa Grande is seeking a professional fire and building code consultant to be involved with designing the proposed 1.7 million square feet Phoenix Mart project.

Fire safety is is prime concern because the site, north of Florence Boulevard east of Overfield and Signals Peak roads, is beyond recommended response time for firefighting equipment.

During earlier PhoenixMart discussions, Fire Chief Scott Miller presented a memo pointing out that the closest fire station is more than five miles away, at Ninth Street and Peart Road. 

Depending upon traffic conditions, Miller wrote, it would take a fire engine from Ninth and Peart between nine to 11 minutes to reach Phoenix Mart. If an engine had to respond from the downtown station or Station Four on East McCartney Road, he added, another three to four minutes would be required.

Longer response times, Miller wrote, put areas into a category of higher insurance costs and  create problems for people needing emergency medical attention.

Eventually, the city will need a fire station in the area east of Interstate 10, Miller wrote.

“A financial commitment was made by the City Council to provide Fire Department infrastructure to protect this business initially and at full buildout with the one or two 13-story hotels and a water park,” he continued. “Included in this initial infrastructure would be a new fire station on the east side of I-10, manpower to staff this facility and a fire truck. Once a 13-story high rise hotel opens at PhoenixMart a fully staffed ladder company would also be needed at that fire station.”

Miller estimated the eventual costs to taxpayers to be $4.5 million for the station, $750,000 for a fire engine with equipment, $1.5 million for a ladder truck and $2.2 million recurring costs for personnel.

The request for qualifications says PhoenixMart would be a retail sourcing center facility that is expected to include space for 1,600-plus vendors located in a building of approximately 1.7 million square feet. The building is proposed as one-story with a mezzanine and an estimated occupancy of approximately 22,000.

The request says the request is for "professional fire and building code consulting services relating to the preparation of a performance-based design for the construction of a proposed Type 1 construction building."

Type 1 buildings are described as primarily concrete and steel framework, able to better resist fires.

"The scope of work consists of the tasks necessary to develop acceptable criteria for the design of a safe building," the request says. "Development and evaluation of design criteria to determine what a tenable environment for the evacuation of occupants will be and establish minimum requirements for the design, installation and testing of smoke control systems to meet the need. 

"The criteria and requirements shall be generally accepted and based on well-established principles of engineering and relevant standards, including but not limited to National Fire Protection Association standards for smoke control and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Handbook for Fire Protection Engineering.

"The goal of the criteria is to result in a performance-based design and construction documents with a design that demonstrates compliance with the intent of the fire and building codes."


Morgan earns 'Chief Fire Officer' designation

(Posted Feb. 25, 2014)


The city issued this press release today:


Casa Grande Assistant Fire Chief James Morgan has successfully completed the process that awards him the professional designation of “Chief Fire Officer” (CFO).  

The Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) met earlier this month to officially confer the designation upon Chief Morgan. Morgan is one of only 956 CFO’s worldwide.

The CPC awards the CFO designation only after an individual successfully meets all of the organization’s stringent criteria. The process includes an assessment of the applicant’s education, experience, professional development, technical competencies, contributions to the profession, and community involvement. The CFO designation program uses a comprehensive peer review model to evaluate candidates seeking the credential.

“Chief Morgan has a rich knowledge of the emergency services profession and has far surpassed critical core competencies for personnel serving in senior fire officer positions,” noted the CPC.

Morgan has directed and coordinated the efforts of firefighting divisions, emergency services, and related medical services for more than 20 years. In his public safety career, he has served as firefighter, captain, battalion chief and flight paramedic. He began his career as a volunteer reserve firefighter in 1979 for the Apache Junction Fire District.

He has been sought-after for his experience and expertise in fire science and emergency management by a number of organizations. Morgan has directed activities of instructors and training personnel, prepared course offerings, and coordinated training logistics for the Arizona Fire District Association, Center for Domestic Preparedness, Arizona Department of Emergency Management and Central Arizona College.

Casa Grande Fire Chief Scott Miller said, “The CFO designation demonstrates Chief Morgan’s commitment to excellence in fire and emergency management.  We’re proud of his accomplishments and honored to have him be part of our management team.”

Morgan has an associate’s degree from Rio Salado College, a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University, and a Master of Applied Science in Fire Administration from Arizona State University.  He will graduate from the Executive Fire Officer Program through the National Fire Academy this year.

Additionally, he is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, and Fire Chief Association of Pinal County.  Morgan has been a member of the City of Casa Grande Fire Department for seven years.

The Commission on Professional Credentialing, an entity of the Center of Public Safety Excellence, Inc., (CPSE) administers the CFO Designation Program.  The CPC consists of individuals from academia, federal and local government, and the fire and emergency medical services profession.  To learn more about CPC, visit www.publicsafetyexcellence.org.


City moves ahead on pay study

(Posted Feb. 21, 2014)


You'll find the full request for quotes HERE

The list of companies responding is HERE


Casa Grande is moving forward with a comprehensive study of city employee pay rates.

An internet posting asks for quotes for a compensation study, including review of the current pay schedules.

In determining pay rates, the city compares wages in other cities and for comparable jobs in private industry.

"The public and private employment-competitive employers currently used for market comparisons will be reviewed and recommendations for deletions and/or additions will be made as appropriate," the request says.

"Classifications currently used as benchmarks will be reviewed and recommendations for deletions and/or additions will be made as appropriate.

"After the market entities are finalized and the benchmark classifications are confirmed, the consultant will survey the selected entities to compare compensation data. The consultant will review, analyze and compile the survey data."

That consultant will recommend classification of pay ranges based on both outside market competitiveness and equity within the city.

"The consultant will also identify the appropriateness of other key compensation practices such as executive compensation, shift differentials, special assignment pay, skill pay, etc., and make recommendations for their use by the city," the request says.

The deadline for consultant responses is March 3.


City seeks professional engineering services
for reconstruction project on Thornton Road

(Posted Feb. 20, 2014)


You'll find the full request document HERE


Casa Grande has taken the first step toward reconstruction of part of Thornton Road, issuing a request for qualifications for professional engineering services.

The project calls for full reconstruction of Thornton was Gila Bend Highway north to Cottonwood Lane. Drainage improvements are included.

The request says the reconstruction will be done in two phases. The first is a half mile from Gila Bend Highway north to the railroad crossing. The second phase is from the rail crossing to Cottonwood Lane.

Separate plans and provisions are required for each phase.

The request response deadline is March 18.


Lopez honored on retirement

  Ernest Lopez, right, receives an appreciation plaque from Mayor Bob Jackson

(Posted Feb. 18, 2014)


Ernest Lopez was recognized Tuesday night by the City Council upon retirement after more than 32 years of service, first with the Casa Grande Public Works Department and then the Fire Department.

"He's leaving with 20 years of service in the Fire Department, but when he first came he actually worked in Public Works," Mayor Bob Jackson said, adding with a smile, "I think what happened, Ernie, is the work got too hard for you."

Jackson said, "I was lucky enough to have Ernie be one of my employees for the first few years that I was here (as Pubic Works director). He was a great employee and I think I can say for the Fire Department, whose representatives are here today, you've been a great employee for them, as well.

"I think we're always sorry to see retirees retire, but on the other hand we're happy because you're still young enough you can go out and enjoy yourself. And we certainly wish you a long and fruitful retirement."

Lopez was presented with a plaque marking his service from Oct. 13, 1981, to Feb. 7, 2014, and a digital television as a retirement gift.

"And again, Ernie, we really appreciate your years of service to the city," Jackson said, "and while we're sorry to see you go, we wish you well in your retirement and I hope it lasts a long, long time."

Lopez said, "I just want to say thank you, mayor, for the opportunity to come up here. And all the council, thank you."


$6,000 state grant moves Life on Main project
historic railroad plaza one step closer to reality

(Posted Feb. 12, 2014)


Scroll down in SPECIAL page, above, for a package of stories outlining 

the entire Life on Main redevelopment concept.


A $6,000 community catalyst grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts will go toward the initial costs of a Railroad Art Plaza on Washington Street south of the railroad tracks.

That redevelopment is known as Life on Main and has been in the process for a couple of years, envisioning restoring the old Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House, renovating the park and eventually having shops and business areas.

Catalyst grants support partnerships between arts and non arts organizations in small and rural Arizona communities. The Casa Grande Arts and Humanities Commission has partnered with Casa Grande Main Street "to envision constructing a public plaza to commemorate the railroad’s history and impact the railroad had and continues to have on our community, while at the same time attracting more visitors and merchants to our city and downtown area," the staff report for the agenda item at the last City Council meeting says.

"The purpose of the grant  is to develop a scope of work for the 'call to artist' to create a conceptual design and plans for the future Railroad Art Plaza, a project of the Arts and  Humanities Commission listed in their Sixth Municipal Arts Five Year Plan (2013-2017). Through the community catalyst grant, the artist to be commission will develop the project design concept and plan of the railroad art plaza based on the elements and culture that were woven together to make the community."

The city owns about 15 acres in the area, which it wants to develop into a business park and other attractions to both draw residents and unite south of the tracks with the downtown shopping areas.

“Central to the proposed plan is preserving the Casa Grande Hotel and Shonessy House while enhancing these historic structures with a flexible, active plaza with space for art fairs and farmers markets,” an earlier city announcement said. 

“Other life enhancing ideas to the area include  expanding Elliot Park to include neighborhood amenities such as a dog park and a ramada for gathering, grilling and neighborhood events; a lively, mixed-use neighborhood with opportunity for outdoor cafés intermixed with shops, retail and offices, and approximately 30,000 square feet of space for light-industry and manufacturing.

“Concept plans also include a district gateway arch feature to welcome people to the neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad tracks along East Main Street near Top Bottom Alley that connects the area to the historic downtown business district.”

The railroad plaza would be along Washington Street between the old hotel and the Shonessy House, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council.

At an earlier Life on Main orientation meeting, Tice said, “The thing that’s pretty exciting to me about the plan is the concept of creating this historic plaza between the Shonessy House and the Casa Grande Hotel that really ties them all together.” 

“There’s the existing Washington Street between the two structures. The idea is to vacate that road in that one block between Main Avenue and First Avenue and to create a historic plaza that can be used as a civic space, a gathering space that really just starts to tie those two historic buildings together.

“The other design element in the historic plaza is a pedestrian overpass that starts on the north side of Main Street, really in the alignment of an old road that was platted as Top and Bottom Street (now Washington Street). It looks like an alley today, but it’s actually platted historically and named historically in the 1800s as Top and Bottom Street.

“So it would be an extension of Top and Bottom Street with a pedestrian overpass that went over Main Street, went over the railroad tracks, went over Main Avenue and came down at this historic plaza. It would be sort of the Top and Bottom historic plaza, if you will, with a pedestrian connection, another good way to connect this area back to the downtown area.

“And again, this part of the plan would have to be publicly funded by the city, again using probably grants, CIP, other funding sources that we might be able to identify, but certainly something that would have to be funded publicly and then we could lease space in the Shonessy House, lease space in the Casa Grande Hotel to private users that were appropriate for those historic structures.”


Pinal County home prices rise 17 percent

(Posted Feb. 12, 2014)


The Pinal County Assessor's Office issued this announcement today:


For Immediate Release                                 

Contact: John Ellinwood (520) 866-6367 



Home Prices increase by double digits in 2013

 

The average purchase price for a single family residence in Pinal County was $168,123 in 2013, an increase of 17 percent over 2012. The median value for last year went up 18 percent from 2012, to $149,000. 

The average size for a home sold in each year was very similar at 1,986 square feet in 2012 and 1,981 square feet in 2013.

While prices rose, the volume of transactions was almost identical at 8,267 sales in 2012 and 8,247 for 2013. The top sale in the county was a 4,200-square-foot home in the Superstitions Mountain community, which sold for $1,100,000 in March of last year.

"The strong recovery in prices has increased the market value for most homeowners," stated Assessor Douglas Wolf.  "It will also be reflected in the 2015 property valuation notices, which will be mailed out next week,"

For more information about the Assessor's Office or the notice of value mailing and the appeal process, go to www.pinalcountyaz.org/assessor.


Captains hired for Police Department





Todd Hanley, left, and J.R. Parrow have been hired as police captains.

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


Two captains have been hired for the Casa Grande Police Department, part of a reorganization step recommended by a management survey and supported by Chief Johnny Cervantes.

Background sheets on the two men were distributed Thursday inside the Police Department.

The captains are Todd Hanley, a Florence native and 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, and J.R. Parrow, a retired Scottsdale police supervisor who later entered corporate security work.


(See following story for background on the reorganization)


The background sheets say:


Todd Hanley


Todd Hanley is a 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department and is currently serving as the Phoenix Police Department’s subject matter expert in case management and investigations. 

He has served in the Maryvale and South Mountain Precinct Patrol Bureaus, General Investigations, Sex Crimes, Auto Theft, Violent Crimes, Street Crimes, Undercover Special Projects, Neighborhood Enforcement Team, Community Action, as well as the advanced training unit at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy (ALEA). 

He was most recently chosen by Phoenix PD to act as a core team member in the $32 million  Records Management System Selection and Implementation Team, where he served as the investigations/case management lead and training lead, responsible for business process design and curriculum development as well as delivery of RMS training to all 4,000 employees. 

As a founder of Sun Devil Family Charities, he has grown the community focused all-volunteer charitable organization to over 14 board members consisting of diverse professionals. Together they have held over 30 events raising in excess of $200,000. For over 10 years he has served as a management consultant for the Phoenix Open PGA Golf Tourney and has held the position of the Bird’s Nest Director of Operations. He recently also began coordinating NFL AZ Cardinals game day operations for the University of Phoenix Stadium as a management consultant for a large metropolitan event management company responsible for traffic ingress/egress and parking. He recently designed the company’s employee orientation and employee development/training programs. 

Todd’s leadership and community involvement includes coaching high school football for the last six years at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School. In his tenure he incorporated a successful character and leadership program for team members and was fortunate enough to be the defensive coordinator of the 2012 State Champions. 

He is originally from Florence and graduated from Florence High School and attended Northern Arizona University where he holds a bachelor of science in education with an emphasis on law enforcement career and technical education. He has a 27-year old stepson and 14-year-old daughter with his wife, Sonia, of 17 years. 


 

J.R. Parrow


J.R.’s experiences in law enforcement included service as an field training officer, crime scene officer, honor guard member, emergency vehicle operations instructor and defensive tactics instructor. He was instrumental in the development of Scottsdale PD’s SWAT program. 

A graduate of SWAT basic, J.R. went on to serve with SWAT in a support role during his time in the K9 unit. He spent over 12 years with K9 as both a handler and later as a team sergeant where he was active on both a regional and national level in developing progressive canine practices for law enforcement. He has served as a canine officer survival instructor and a trial judge for police K9 competitions. 

Additionally, J.R. served on the chief’s advisory board that succeeded in the getting the police department through the accreditation process from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He was Scottsdale PD’s primary law enforcement ethics instructor, among a list of other police curriculum taught over the years. As a police lieutenant he went on to spearhead significant police community relations initiatives in the downtown district up until his retirement.

After retiring from the Scottsdale Police Department, the very next week, J.R. entered the corporate sector and took over as a director of security for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.  While in this role, J.R. implemented a host of new policies and procedures that aligned the hotel with enhanced reporting and surveillance technology. Additionally, he coordinated assessment efforts with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to reduce hotel’s liabilities from both domestic and foreign terrorism. His efforts led to recognition by both federal agencies as an exemplary hospitality partner in threat analysis and reduction. 

J.R. holds associate and bachelor degrees in criminal justice from Wayland Baptist University,  where he currently attends as a graduate student majoring in organizational leadership. He and his wife, Heidi, also retired law enforcement, have two grown children – a son serving in the U.S. Army and a daughter in the insurance industry.

Behind the reorganization, hirings ...

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


The hiring of two captains for the Police Department is part of a reorganization that sees the former commander positions changed to lieutenant.

The three division commanders to be affected were Scott Sjerven in Special Operations, Kent Horn in Patrol and Mike Keck in Criminal Investigations. Keck retired last month.

Last August, the initial announcement said, “Staff recommends creating two new police captain positions and reclassify the positions of police commander to lieutenant as part of a departmental reorganization.

“The reorganization would allow for more proactive supervision during peak activity times, the ability to better manage critical incidents, and the ability to enhance proactive crime reduction strategies to address problem areas.”

When the approval came during a City Council meeting last August, Mayor Bob Jackson said part of the reorganization request came from a report given to the city near the end of 2010 by the ICMA Center for Public Safety, which is part of the International City/County Management Association. The city had hired ICMA to do the survey of the Police Department.

Jackson asked Police Chief Johnny Cervantes, hired late last March to replace Chief Bob Huddleston, for comments on the report.

“One of the advantages that I had coming in here was that ICMA report,” Cervantes said.

“One of the things that they recommended was that currently we have three commander positions. One of the things they talk about in that report was that the third position didn’t really have enough (duties) to support that, there wasn’t enough direct reports to support that third position and they recommended going down to two.”

From the report

That section of the ICMA report says:

Eliminate the position Commander – Special Operations

This position can be eliminated. Compared to other commander duties in the CGPD, this position is clearly the least demanding. With fewer than 15 direct reports, this position does not require a commander. The duties and responsibilities of special operations in the CGPD can be handled by a sergeant. The sergeant – Special Operations can be placed under the command of the Patrol Division commander.

According to the Police Department’s website:

“The Special Operations Division was formed July 2006 and is now the fourth division of the Police Department. Cmdr. Scott Sjerven (a sworn police officer) is the commander of this division. Special Operations encompasses several areas of the Police Department’s operation, to include Volunteer Services, Animal Control, School Resource Officers, Crime Prevention, Graffiti, alarms, community traffic unit, Crime Free Multi-Housing, Neighborhood Watch and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).”

The other divisions are Communications, headed by civilian Mike Brashier (that division was not included in the chief’s request); Patrol, headed by Cmdr. Kent Horn, and Criminal Investigations, headed by Mike Keck. Horn and Keck are sworn police officers.

Cervantes continued that, “So one of the things I did do was take some observations and take a look at those during my initial three months here. And I concur with that. I think that we can do with just two command positions. And that would entail one commander (captain) position for Investigations and one for Patrol operations. That was part of the ICMA recommendations.”

Councilman Ralph Varela asked Cervantes how the two captain positions would fit into the chief’s goals for the department.

“Let me start with one of the things that I think is critical to this reorganization – and that’s the lieutenant positions,” Cervantes answered.

“When it comes to critical incidents, and I’ll give you a perfect example … a few weeks ago we responded to an area of the city where a suicide occurred. We were trying to investigate that. Well, in trying to investigate that, a crowd formed, so there was some issues with the crowd and our ability to do what we needed to do.

“Fortunately, we had our command staff that did respond and I think the outcome of that was a result of our command staff being there to make those high level decisions during critical incidents, because this certainly could have turned for the worst and somebody could have gotten hurt if an issue was to explode.

“Well, that was daytime. Right now, we don’t have that command level for the weekends or the nighttime hours.

“That doesn’t mean that the first-line supervisors, the corporals, are not doing a good job. They are doing a good job, but it just takes a different set of eyes when you’re trying to manage situations like critical incidents, especially the complex ones where you’re talking about a lot of people, you’re taking about organizations are responding from other communities to assist us. So it takes a lot of coordination, and the lieutenant level positions will allow us to do that, especially during the night and the weekend.”

Varela asked how department communication with the lieutenants would be handled.

“Well, we’re still going to have a communication level,” Cervantes responded, “because, again, they’re the highest level of supervision during the weekends and nighttime hours. So we just need to make sure that they’re included in the meetings that we have, that we have a lengthy basis to exchange that communication level information.”

Councilwoman Fitzgibbons asked who the two captains would report to, what their duties would be and how their hiring would affect the efficiency of the department.

Cervantes replied that, “Right now, the first-line supervisors, the sergeants, have a lot of extra responsibilities,” he said. “That leaves them very little time to manage during some of the critical incidents. Again, the critical incidents could be very complex. The same with crime reduction strategy can be very complex.

“So with those extra responsibilities, it’s hard to do proactive supervision. What the lieutenant level does is alleviate some of those administrative responsibilities, action plans for example.

“If there’s a problem in the community that comes out of our crime predictive computer process, then I need somebody that’s going to take on active solutions and strategies to address those crime problems.

“Well, sergeants with those additional responsibilities have a difficult time to do it. They can do it, but it’s difficult. The lieutenant level would take on, absorb some of the responsibilities. Again, especially for the peak times, that’s where it’s really critical. Daytime, yeah, we have some of the resources to come out to help. It’s at the nighttime hours, during busy peak times where you don’t have that additional supervision to alleviate some of those responsibilities.

“And so to your question, yeah, I do think it’s going to alleviate and create some more efficiencies in that regard.

“And again, our number one priority is crime reduction strategies. In transitioning, you asked me what the vision was. I want to take this organization to where instead of where we’re responding to crime, we’re being proactive with crime. And again, these positions will allow us to do that, because it takes that burden off the sergeants so they can supervise, the lieutenants can get action items and then move forward on that. I think it will do exactly just that.”

City Manager Thompson said the new hires will be on an at-will employment probationary period for “maybe six months or one year, just depends on the type of position and the level of training or on the job training that we do according to that.”

Addressing the council as a whole,

Cervantes said, “One of my biggest challenges coming in here was determining how to approach any change. It’s important to embrace the historical aspects of any organization in a community. And the same thing with the Police Department. It’s important to embrace that.

“It was a tough position to be in, coming into a very proud organization and implementing this kind of change. I knew it was going to be a big change. I don’t take it lightly, and I think it’s the right change for the future of this organization.

“I think it’s good to have that one foot in the past and embrace the good parts about it, but at some point in time you have to turn around to face the future. And I think this helps us face the future, and I think this is the right direction.

“I think this is exactly what this is doing, trying to embrace the good things about the culture and the good things about the structure, but at some point in time we have to bring that around, we have to bring that other foot around. And I’m very confident that we’re going to be just that and this is going to help us do just that.”


Hexel expansion building approved

(Posted Feb. 7, 2014)


Approval of a major site plan to add a 21,030-square-foot manufacturing building at Hexel Corp. comes with a requirement that all water from storms be retained on the site rather than spilling onto North VIP Boulevard.

The approval Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission also allows a paved 116-stall employee parking lot on the property at 1214 W. Gila Bend Highway and requires sidewalks along the VIP frontage.

"There are no sidewalks up and down VIP Boulevard," City Planner Keith Newman told the commission. "This is the first step. Over time, all sidewalk gaps along VIP Boulevard will be filled in, done a little bit at a time, upon development of all vacant properties and when existing businesses come in for renovations."


You'll find the complete agenda at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/clerk/boards/pzc/

Click on Staff Reports for Hexel document


Most of the discussion involved the stormwater retention. 

"The situation is that the existing development on site today does not currently retain existing stormwater flows," Newman said. "All these stormwater flows run off of the site and into VIP Boulevard. The code requires that when the existing development is expanded all stormwater flows must be retained on the site."

Commission member Fred Tucker said the stormwater flooding is not confined to Hexel, noting that when there is heavy rain water flows north on VIP Boulevard.

"Literally, property owners have built seeming pretty much dams up there because if they don't, water's going to flood into the properties," he said.

Tucker asked how much of that flooding problem is created by Hexel not having on-site retention and how much the required basins there would ease the problem.

There was no clear answer.

Duane Eitel, the city's traffic engineer, said there are drainage problems in the area, but believes the retention basins would meet city requirements.

"It will help the system there, but I don't know the percentage of improvement," he said. "There will be some."

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said part of the problem is that many of the properties in the area were building before the drainage rules were changed to require all water be retained on site.

Once the Hexel basins are constructed, he said, "whatever water this property is contributing to VIP will stop being contributed to VIP.  The VIP flooding that might be there won't go away, but it will be lessened to a certain extent."

Commission member Mike Henderson said, "That entire street is fortified on almost every lot by berms and things to keep the water out. I've never seen it flood, but clearly there are issues there that Duane referred to. Every lot has some kind of protection."

Ole Solberg, a Casa Grande professional engineer representing Hexel, said the VIP runoff is a concern to the company, which has been working with the city on finding a solution.

"We will be retaining more water than currently being discharged from the site," he said. "There will be less. How much, I'd be hard pressed to say but from this particular site it will be less being discharged than currently. The code does allow a little runoff -- you can't do it 100 percent -- but we will retain what the city code requires and the city engineer requires."

Solberg said the addition of 116 parking spaces does not mean that Hexel is hiring a lot of new employees. It's a matter of parking difficulties at the site.

"Hexel has a lot of work shifts going on," he said. "I won't quite say it's like Wal-Mart at Christmas shopping time trying to find a parking spot, but shift changes get kind of fun, you might say. This is going to allow them to provide all the employees with parking, safe parking, and allow other little modification externals to the plant they have."

Commission approval was unanimous, with member Brett Benedict on an excused absence.


Manhole repairs almost completed

(Posted Feb. 6, 2014)


Scroll down page for earlier story on sewers, manholes


Emergency work to replace eight sewer manholes that were in danger of collapsing is almost finished, the City Council was told during Monday's meeting.

The manholes, along the railroad tracks between North Thornton Road and West Cottonwood Lane, were found to have been in poor condition because of corrosion from hydrogen sulfide created in the sewer lines. 

Recent traffic by heavy farming equipment and heavy Salt River Project vehicles using during work on a power line is believed to have worsened the condition, causing failures of the manholes, the staff report said.

Councilman Matt Herman asked if the problem was found during preventative maintenance work.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis responded that, "During our inspections of our sewer lines, we did find this section where we have eight manholes that had deteriorated to a point where they were really close to collapsing. And because of the adjacency next to the railroad tracks and the importance of that line and our ability not to divert those flows, we decided to move forward with these repairs.

"Fortunately, we had a contractor, SoCal Excavating, who we've done work with in the past and will continue to work in the future. We got good prices from them ($64,450 total) to get this work done and actually all but one manhole has been replaced, so the project is moving forward and should be finished up next week."

Herman commended the Public Works Department for catching the issue before a collapse.

"Well, I'm glad it wasn't 80 instead of eight," Louis responded.

"We try to be as proactive as we can. Obviously, we had to react on this situation."

Hydrogen sulfide builds up in sewer lines and if not cleaned out during maintenance causes corrosion and other problems.

"Some of the levels that we've experienced throughout our system is the reason why we've gone forward with the aggressive cleaning program that we initiated," Louis said. "It just deteriorates those lines.

"The manholes were actually coated in the past, so it almost masked the amount of deterioration that was there. Maybe way back when when they did those, the sealer on the inside, they probably should have looked a little closer and they probably would have found a lot more damage. It was probably not the right treatment at that time."


New traffic signals on Pinal creating 
confusion, city posts instructional video

(Posted Feb. 4, 2014)


You'll find the city's video on how the new signals work at

http://youtu.be/YhrZc7uRMHo


An ADOT instructional flyer is HERE


Another ADOT instruction sheet is HERE




What's known as a pedestrian hybrid beacon has been installed at the San Carlos Trail near Casa Grande Middle School as part of the Pinal Avenue pavement improvements by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The signal, now operating, is a new system -- and confusing to many.

As Councilman Karl Montoya said during Monday night's City Council meeting, "It would be great to see a public service announcement on what the lights actually mean. They go from yellow to solid red to blinking red, and everybody kind of looks at each other, like what do we do now? 

"So it would be good to just kind of get that word out there and just kind of say, hey, let's all get on the same pages, what the lights mean and go from there."

Good point, Mayor Bob Jackson replied.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the city posted a video on its Facebook page, featuring Jerry Greenfield, the ADOT project manager, explaining how the roadway signals and pedestrian signals work.

The first step for pedestrians is to push the "Cross" button as is done on a normal crosswalk signal.

"When you push the button, yellow lights will start flashing (at Pinal traffic) and that'll signalize to the traffic that someone is ready to cross the roadway," Greenfield said. "After that, the lights will go to a solid yellow and then to solid red, and that will tell traffic that they need to come to a complete stop."

At that point, the pedestrian lighted wait/walk signal will show a white outline of a man, he continued, adding, "That signalizes the pedestrian that it's safe to cross, but they should always double check to make sure traffic is stopped and then go ahead and proceed through the crosswalk.

"As they go through, they'll see a red hand pop up (on the walk sign) counting down from 15 and that just lets them know how much time they have left to get across the roadway safely."

Greenfield said the traffic lights will then start flashing red, meaning that if there are no pedestrians in the crossing the traffic may then move through.

White outline is to start crossing; red numbers show seconds left.


Pine-Sol just won't cut it for cleaning
Casa Grande's miles of sewer piping

(Posted Feb. 2, 2014)


The memo on the manhole failures is HERE


Maps of the sewer cleaning areas are HERE


Sewer cleaning staff report is HERE



Sorry, Pine-Sol.

Your product you say has been "cleaning what stinks since 1929" won't cut it when it comes to Casa Grande's sewer pipes, both for smell and causes of corrosion.

Besides, with Casa Grande having 260 miles of sewer, 4,500 manholes and nine lift stations it would take truckloads of your product and umpteen hours of time to trickle it down the openings.

The city has opted to hire Ancon for this year's sewer cleaning and has posted a request for qualifications for contractors to rehabilitate manholes.

The cleaning and rehabilitation of manholes is a must for the city, shown by a $62,450 emergency spending agenda item for Monday night's City Council meeting to replace eight of them along the railroad tracks between Thornton Road and Cottonwood Lane. They have failed, the staff report says, because of hydrogen sulfide corrosion and stress caused by heavy farming equipment and Salt River Project equipment used in installing a power line.

The sewer line cleaning, to begin in early March for about six months, will cover 138,000 linear feet of line at a cost of $59,604. That's a bit more than 26 miles, or if you're a horse racing fan a bit more than 200 furlongs.

(TRIVIA: The furlong wasn't always just an arcane unit of measure that horseracing fans gabbed about; it once had significance as the length of the furrow a team of oxen could plow in a day. In 1592, the English Parliament set about determining the length of the mile and decided that each one should be made up of eight furlongs. Since a furlong was 660 feet, we ended up with a 5,280-foot mile.)

Anyway, back to sewers.

The total amount of the contract is up to $142,000, The staff report says that allows for cleaning the 138,175 linear feet of pipeline "and approximately 225,000 linear feet of additional gravity sewers can be cleaned under this project within the remaining budget available for this project. This additional work shall be evaluated and prioritized by the Public Works Department as funding allows."

The importance of cleaning, the staff report says, is that it will reduce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels, both in the lines and at the sewage treatment plant.

"This reduction in H2S levels will reduce the adverse impact that high concentrations of H2S can have on the collection system (pipelines, manholes, and lift stations) as well as the odor control system equipment at the plant," it says. "It will also help reduce the complaints from residents regarding sewer odors throughout the city. We are using a contractor for the large diameter sewer as the city does not have the proper equipment to do this work at this time."

The City Council has previously been told that the equipment for cleaning the large lines is so expensive that it is not cost effective to buy it.

That hydrogen sulfide in the lines not only creates odors, but does nasty stuff to the manholes. The H2S, helped by age and stormwater flow, weakens the structure.

That was a leading cause of the failures of the eight manholes along the railroad tracks, leading to the $62,450 repair bill on Monday's City Council agenda.

A memo from city engineer Terrence McKeon explains it this way:

"Recently it was discovered that manholes on the 18-inch PVC sewer line which runs parallel to the UPRR west of Thornton are very badly deteriorated and have suffered almost total structural failure. The current condition of these manholes leaves them subject to immediate and imminent danger of collapse and also poses the threat of plugging the existing sewerline completely by falling debris. This existing sewer line and manholes are approximately six feet in depth. 

"It had been noted previously that these manholes were in poor condition, and it was planned to address these under the annual rehabilitation program. Recent activity by SRP in constructing their new overhead high-voltage transmission lines appears to have placed excessive loading on these manholes, thereby causing unanticipated structural failure of these manholes. 

"This pipeline is believed to have been constructed in 1985. The concrete of the existing manholes and bases has suffered severe damage from sulfuric acid as a result of high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) throughout the 28-plus-year life of the pipeline."

The full memo is HERE



Casa Grande retains AA credit
classification from Fitch Ratings

(Posted Jan. 29, 20140


Fitch Ratings has again given Casa Grande a AA rating on its existing general obligation bonds, noting that the overall financial outlook is stable but that the police and fire retirement funds are lagging. 

"This rating means that the city can secure financing at lower interest rates, as there is much less risk that the money will not be repaid," the city said. "Similar to how individuals get lower interest rates based on their credit score, the city also has to prove its financial ability to repay any debt."

A city press release quoted City Manager Jim Thompson as saying, "While other cities in the state are being downgraded, we've been fortunate to keep our bond rating strong. This rating demonstrates our commitment to being responsible with public funds to make the biggest impact for the community."

Fitch noted that although still recovering from the economic downturn, the city has maintained a moderately paced economic recovery the last few years with increased levels of residential development activity, consumer spending and local commercial investment.

The agency also noted that city management “prudently accumulated a portion of the large excise tax revenue gains made in earlier growth years, particularly local construction sales tax revenues, and dedicated much of it towards future, one-time capital spending rather than expanding ongoing spending levels."


The text of the Fitch press release, including key review points, is:



Fitch Affirms Casa Grande, AZ's GOs and Excise Tax Rev Bonds at 'AA'; Outlook Stable   Ratings   Endorsement Policy

 

23 Jan 2014 2:20 PM (EST)


Fitch Ratings-Austin-23 January 2014: Fitch Ratings affirms its 'AA' rating on the following Casa Grande, Arizona (the city) debt:


--$28.1 million in outstanding unlimited tax general obligation (ULTGO) bonds;

--$28.3 million in outstanding excise tax revenue bonds.


The Rating Outlook is Stable.


SECURITY: The excise tax bonds are secured by a first lien on the city's excise tax revenues. The GO bonds are secured by an unlimited ad valorem tax levied on all taxable property in the city.


KEY RATING DRIVERS


STRONG DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE: Fiscal 2013 pledged revenues provide higher coverage on outstanding excise tax bonds of over 10x debt service and 9.3x maximum annual debt service (MADS) excluding debt repaid with utility system revenues given recent revenue gains realized from an improving economy and increased state-shared revenues.


MODERATELY PACED ECONOMIC RECOVERY: Increased levels of residential development activity, consumer spending, and local commercial investment point to a strengthening economy. Nonetheless, unemployment remains above state and national averages. Fitch anticipates a continued, moderate pace of economic recovery although growth may not return to pre-recessionary levels over the near term.


SOLID RESERVE LEVELS PRESERVE FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY: Management maintains a large financial cushion in accordance with its policy. Use of very high reserve levels above that floor in conjunction with spending cuts allowed the city to withstand the downturn and resulting three-year decline in city excise taxes.


MULTI-YEAR TAX BASE DECLINES: Historically large annual gains in the tax base reversed sharply beginning in fiscal 2011. Annual tax base declines since then have moderated as this metric lags the market by about two years. Taxpayer concentration is moderately high.


BELOW-AVERAGE PENSION FUNDED POSITION: The city consistently contributes 100% of the actuarially determined annual pension contribution (APC) as required by its pension plans. Nonetheless, Fitch anticipates the city’s APC will steadily rise in order to improve the pensions’ below-average to weak funded positions. This anticipated cost driver is somewhat offset by the city’s measured debt and capital program. Fitch believes the city will maintain a moderate fixed carrying-cost burden despite funding its growth-related capital needs over the intermediate term.


EXCISE TAX BOND RATING CAPPED ON PAR: Pursuant to Fitch’s criteria, the rating on the excise tax bonds is capped at the level of the city’s ULTGO rating.


RATING SENSITIVITIES


SHIFT IN FUNDAMENTALS: The ratings are sensitive to changes in fundamental credit characteristics including excise tax performance, currently solid coverage levels, and the city's sound debt and financial management practices. The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's expectation that such shifts are unlikely over the near term.


CREDIT SUMMARY: 


SOUTH OF PHOENIX ALONG MAJOR INTERSTATE

Casa Grande has a population of about 50,000 in western Pinal County. It is a regional retail/commercial hub located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson at the junction of two major interstate highways.


RAPID EXPANSION REALIZED PRE-RECESSION; PACED ECONOMIC RECOVERY

The city's population base has nearly doubled since 2000 due largely to the affordable residential development within feasible commuting distance to the larger metropolitan employment bases. Rapid population growth fed the housing construction boom, which drove much of the city's double-digit tax base growth that occurred from fiscal 2006-2009 along with rapid rates of price appreciation, but ultimately resulted in the collapse of the housing market that was largely realized statewide. The state’s housing market deterioration and home value declines were some of the most severe in the nation and, in conjunction with the recession, weakened the local economy over much of fiscals 2009-2012.


Nonetheless, recent housing data reflect moderately improving home values that have steadily recovered since the trough of the recession. Increased residential development activity, consumer spending, and local commercial investment remain below pre-recessionary peaks but also point to moderate economic improvement in the city, inclusive of a large, multi-functional products and trade center, Phoenix Mart. The development is slated to break ground in 2014 and will reportedly add 3,000 jobs to the community according to its investment guidelines. Unemployment remains elevated, consistent with historical trends. Year-over-year unemployment declined to 9.8% in August 2013, due in part to labor force loss, from 10.5% in August 2012. The August 2013 rate remained above state and national rates of 8.7% and 7.3% respectively. Median household income and advanced educational attainment are below state and national averages.


TAX BASE DECLINES HAVE MODERATED 

Growth in secondary assessed valuation (SAV; which lags changes in market value by two years) began to reflect the substantial home price declines in fiscal 2011 with a significant 12% decline in SAV. Annual declines since then have moderated, reflective of reduced deterioration in values over time. SAV remains closer to its pre-2009 level at about $333 million in fiscal 2014 and the top 10 taxpayers comprise a moderately high 14.8% of SAV, led by an electric utility and an outlet mall, each at 3%. Management’s preliminary expectations are for a return to at least flat performance in fiscal 2015 given development underway and planned as well as improving home values.


Proposition 117 was approved by Arizona voters in November 2012 as a constitutional amendment, and is expected to minimize some volatility in valuations by limiting annual increases in locally assessed existing property values to 5%, beginning in fiscal 2016 (2014 real property valuations). Fitch will continue to monitor the evolving impact of Proposition 117, as it reflects a significant change to the property assessment process.


EXCISE TAXES ARE KEY TO GENERAL OPERATIONS

The city relies largely on excise taxes to fund general fund operations. The excise tax is provided by a broad base of revenue sources, including local sales taxes, state shared sales and income taxes, franchise fees, license and permits, and fines and forfeitures. Property taxes make up less than 10% of total general fund operating revenues. Management prudently accumulated a portion of the large excise tax revenue gains made in earlier growth years, particularly local construction sales tax revenues, and dedicated much of it towards future, one-time capital spending rather than expanding ongoing spending levels. After a three-year period of decline in its excise tax revenues, the city has recently realized two years of gains over fiscals 2012-2013. This was largely a result of both growth in the city’s state-shared revenues based on its higher population count and strengthened local sales tax. Pledged excise tax revenues grew about 11% in fiscal 2012, exceeding management’s prior expectations, and additional growth of nearly 8% was recorded per unaudited fiscal 2013 results.


IMPROVED EXCISE TAXES PROVIDE SOLID BOND COVERAGE

Legal provisions for excise-tax revenue bondholders are strong; the city covenants to levy new or increase existing excise taxes if the minimally required coverage level of 3x is not maintained, although the critical need for excise taxes to fund operations guards against over-issuance. Fitch conservatively calculates coverage based on the $32.7 million in excise taxes received in fiscal 2013 for the outstanding excise tax bonds and the full Water Infrastructure and Financing Authority (WIFA) loan, a portion of which is secured by excise tax revenues (and which has a parity excise tax pledge) at a solid 4.0x MADS. However, assuming wastewater revenues, which are the intended repayment source for the WIFA loan (and which is the city’s practice), continue to be sufficient to cover debt service, MADS coverage on the excise tax debt rises to a very strong 9.3x.


STRONG FINANCIAL CUSHION MAINTAINED

Developed from multiple fiscal years of strong revenue growth prior to the recession, the city's financial cushion peaked in fiscal 2008 with an unreserved general fund balance of $30.6 million or nearly 83% of spending. Management judiciously built a very high level of reserves over time (to be maintained at no less than 50% of general fund spending according to policy) in order to offset some of the risk associated with the economically sensitive excise tax revenues that provide the bulk of funding general operations.


In response to recessionary pressures on operating revenues, management reduced spending levels in fiscals 2010 and 2011 thru a variety of operating efficiencies as well as used some of the financial cushion available with the drawdown of roughly $4.5 million in both years. The years' drawdowns were largely for one-time capital spending but also included ongoing operating expenditures, although a large reserve cushion was maintained at year-end. Results for fiscals 2012 and 2013 reflect both management’s conservative spending practices and the area’s and state’s positive economic trends in its key revenue streams. Budget projections were largely improved upon at year-end and the city expects to add a modest $578,000 to reserves at fiscal 2013 year-end, bringing unrestricted general fund reserves up slightly to $19.8 million or about 52.5% of spending.


The adopted fiscal 2014 $40.8 million budget grew by about 6% from the prior year’s budget due to both one-time pay-go capital spending that is expected to draw modestly on reserves by about $1.3 million as well as salary and pension cost increases that totaled around $1.1 million. Operations are structurally balanced. Management reports year-to-date revenue and spending trends generally remain in line with budgeted numbers and, as supported by the city’s stable and moderately growing economic climate, year-end fund balance is expected to remain stable.


MODERATE OVERALL DEBT/PENSION FUNDING LIKELY TO DRIVE LONG-TERM LIABILITIES

Overall debt levels are moderate, approximating $2,510 on a per capital basis and 4.5% of market value. The city's direct debt levels are supported by utility revenues and the city's practice of pay-go capital spending. Principal amortization of tax-supported debt is rapid at about 78% in 10 years. Management indicates its large, planned capital improvement program (CIP) over the next five fiscal years (fiscals 2014-2018), which includes sizable pay-go capital spending, remains flexible. The only tax-supported debt needs projected in the near term include issuance plans for the remaining $16 million in GO bond authority for a community center. Nonetheless, Fitch expects much of the CIP will eventually be implemented over time given the city’s growth-related capital needs and will likely follow management’s history of maintaining a measured debt and capital program that should allow the city to maintain a moderate fixed carrying-cost burden.


WEAK PUBLIC SAFETY PENSION FUNDED POSITION 

The city contributes to two pension plans, as well as for disability, death and healthcare benefits. The general employee pension plan is through the Arizona State Retirement System, a cost-sharing, multiple-employer plan. The city has made 100% of its APC in fiscals 2011-2013. The plan's funded position is satisfactory at 75.7% at June 30, 2012, although it would fall to an estimated 68% after adjusting for a more conservative 7% investment rate of return.


The city also makes its full APC to the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS), an agent, multiple-employer plan for police and firefighters. Both the fire account and police account pension funded positions are weak. This is despite recent state legislation that incorporates multi-year increases to employee contribution rates and future benefit changes, which are projected to improve the city's (and plan's) funded position over time. The police pension program is funded at 54% as of the most recent actuarial valuation (June 30, 2011) while the fire pension position is at 60% for the same period. The funded position of both accounts would drop to 52.6% (fire) and a very low 47.5% (police) assuming a 7% rate of return.


The city has contributed 100% of its annual required contribution for other post-employment benefits (OPEB) over fiscals 2011-2013, although the OPEB funded position is not yet reported separately from the pension system. Carrying costs (debt service, pension, and OPEB costs, net of self-supporting debt) totaled a relatively modest 14% of governmental spending in fiscal 2013 assisted by sizable self-support of debt from its enterprise systems and conservative leveraging practices. Fitch believes the city's carrying costs over the near- to intermediate-term will likely rise to a moderate level but remain manageable given a modestly rising debt service schedule and probable increases required by the state to the employer's APC as well as expectations of future debt issuances.


The official press release from Fitch Ratings is at

https://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/press_releases/detail.cfm?pr_id=816660



2013 average jobless rate in CG 8.9%

  CG jobless rates from January through December, with an 8.9 percent average

(Posted Jan. 23, 2014)


The report for all areas of Pinal County, other counties and the state is HERE


Casa Grande ended 2013 with an average of 8.9 percent unemployment, statistics released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show. The average for year 2012 was 10 percent.

By contrast, the year's average for 2007, the year before the national economy tanked, was 4.1. 

The breakdown of statistics for the county and other cities and areas, with the December 2013 rate first, the November 2013 rate, 2013 year average and the 2007 year average show:

Pinal County, 7.5, 7.3, 8.4, 4.4.

Pinal County without Indian reservations, 6.9, 6.8, 7.8, 4.

Arizona City, 4.2, 4.1, 4.7, 2.4.

Coolidge, 13.4, 13.1, 14.9, 8.

Eloy, 11.1, 10.9, 12.4, 6.6.

Florence, 16.6, 16.1, 17.8, 4.4.

Maricopa city, 7, 7.1, 8.2, 4.9.

Stanfield area, 16.4, 16.1, 18.2, 9.9.

Ak-Chin Village area, 9.3, 9.1, 10.5, 5.5.

Sacaton area, 29.2, 28.7, 31.9, 18.9.

Chuichu area, 10.4, 10, 11.7, 6.

Blackwater area, 22.8, 22.4, 25, 14.2.

Gila River Indian Community, 23.4, 22.9, 25.6, 14.6.

Ak-Chin Indian Community, 9, 8.9, 10.3, 5.5.

Tohono O’odham Nation and off-reservation trust lands, 27.2, 26.5, 29, 16.9.


BELOW IS CASA GRANDE'S 22-YEAR AVERAGE


mycasagrande mobile app available

(Posted Jan. 22, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The city of Casa Grande has become one of a handful of communities around the country to leverage smartphone technology to encourage citizens to report service needs or issues of concern. 

The app, called mycasagrande, is available for download to use on Android and Apple devices. The mobile app allows residents to report graffiti, code violations, illegal dumping, street repairs/maintenance, sewer issues and parks maintenance. Residents can simply click a picture of an issue and send it to the city.

The technology uses the GPS in smartphones to identify the specific location of the problem, allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch work crews, codes enforcement officers or other personnel to the scene. 

The city believes that the information provided by citizens through the new mobile app will help to improve the efficiency of its operations and reduce costs.

It is available at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/citymanager/pio/mobileapps/


Mark Bonsall, Mike Keck honored
on Police Department retirement







SGT.
MARK 
BONSALL

Oct. 10, 1988 
to 
Jan. 11, 2014








CMDR.

MIKE

KECK


March 1992 

to 

Jan. 10, 2014.

(Posted Jan. 21, 2014)


Two veteran Casa Grande police officers were honored during Monday night's City Council meeting upon their retirement after serving more than 20 years each.

Mike Keck, retiring as a commander, joined the Casa Grande Police Department in March 1992. Sgt. Mark Bonsall served since October 1988.

Both men will take jobs as investigators in the Pinal County Attorney's Office.

As Mayor Bob Jackson put it after calling Keck to the podium, "An opportunity has really presented itself for Mike; he's really leaving because a once in a lifetime opportunity has presented itself. Certainly I understand that. I really appreciate and respect Mike for all he's done for the city.

"And I will tell you, he's seen lots of changes in Police Department over the last 20 some odd years but he's kind of been the go-to guy. I know Mike outside of his professional life and I will tell you he's dealt with a very difficult situation over the years and done that very professionally and very, very well.

"Certainly on behalf of the city, Mike, we hate to see you leave but by the same token we're happy for you because I think it's a new chapter in your life and you do a great job."

Keck spoke briefly.

"Mark and I both were presented an opportunity to move out to work for several more years," he said. "But I do want to thank the council, the City Manager's Office, the chiefs that I've worked for. I've had a great career here, a lot of opportunities. I've always appreciated all the support from everybody. It was hard to leave, but it's just time to start a new chapter in my life. I'll still be around in the area working with the departments. So thank you very much, I appreciate it."

Calling Bonsall forward, Jackson said, "while I hate to see both of them leave, I absolutely understand what they're doing and I agree with it. I know they'll do a great job in their new profession."

Jackson pointed out that in his other life Bonsall is part of the Noel Kirkland band, playing bass guitar.

"I know the first time I saw him playing in a park or something," Jackson said, "I looked up there and said that looks like Mark Bonsall -- no it can't be.

"Certainly he's done a lot of things in the community. And much like Mike I think he's given a lot to the community. Being a police officer is not an easy job. I know you've got lots of war stories, and I heard some of those, as well.

"And on behalf of the council I want to thank you for your years of service. I know you'll do a great job in your new endeavor."

Bonsall's comments were also brief.

"It's been an absolute honor to serve and protect this community," he said. "It is my community. Like they said, it's not a job, it's a new future. I enjoyed every minute of it, so thank you."

Council members also had comments.

"The years I've been on the council I've become very much aware of what they've done," Dick Powell said, "and their fingerprints are all over a lot of the good policing policies and the good things that have happened to our Police Department on their watch. You're not people we can replace. We'll hire somebody else to take your place, but we can't replace you, so we just want you to know how much we appreciate you, and whoever is getting you is lucky."

Matt Herman also thanked the two.

"You guys are really community members," he said, "not just as police officers but as what you do outside of the job, and that's certainly in this community. You guys both live here, you've lived here forever. We appreciate that. 

"And Mike, I just want to say we have the public safety meetings (council committee) and they give us all the information I have to look at and he can put it into the terms to translate to me so I know what they're talking about. He has a really good way about him of doing that and he's helpful. The knowledge that we're losing is sad. He promised me he's still going to be around and help out the department.

"And Mark, the same thing. Community guy, you do stuff all around. You really give it all, and I just appreciate you as a member of the community and a good person to have around. I know you guys aren't going far, but we're glad for you."

Lisa Fitzgibbons said, "You know, Mike, it just seems like you're just like a pillar in the department and it's truly going to be their loss. It's sad to see you go. When I was on the public safety (committee), just your professionalism and knowledge and integrity was really good on that, and so we're are really losing someone really important.

"And Mark, your life is the Casa Grande police officer, everyone pictures you. You've been here for so long, and it's just your integrity and your personality and you truly care about this community. It's just really a shame we're going to lose you both, it is just really sad.

"I hope you guys know that you are going to be missed. Not only the council but the community appreciates everything you've done here."

Karl Montoya said it was a pleasure to work with both men, both when he was a member of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol and for the Silent Witness program.

"You've kind of helped Silent Witness move up from the ashes, I would say, from a little portion of the Police Department and with the community hand in hand to where it is today and doing great strides. You guys should be proud of helping that program really move forward and being that liaison and getting that information and really helping the community."

Ralph Varela touched on the professional aspect.

"Your professionalism always came through," he said. "You're a leader, your ability to followup on any request or questions that we had. You will be missed here, but the good thing is that your skills remain in Pinal County. So good luck to both of you and thank you for everything that you did."

Mary Kortsen added, "It's so important that a community has faith in their Police Department. You've been one of the key things in that."

Jackson said he spoke with the county attorney during an event Friday night "and he's excited to get you. I did tell him whatever he's paying you wasn't enough."


Four honored for service

(Posted Jan. 17, 2014)


The Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce honored four people Friday night for outstanding service to the community. In addition, outgoing chamber board chairman Rona Curphy was given a small metal golf cart with her face pasted on the driver's seat, next to last photo below. Chamber President Helen Neuharth said the "award" was in recognition of Curphy's (in)ability to drive a golf cart.








Helen Neuharth, chamber president and CEO, received flowers as thanks for her work during the year.


Qualified construction managers sought
for building PhoenixMart infrastructure 

(Posted Jan. 15, 2014)


You'll find the complete request for qualifications at

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/PhoenixMartCMR.pdf


A list of companies responding is HERE. The city still has the proposals under consideration.


PhoenixMart is advertising for proposals from qualified construction managers for building infrastructure for the 525-acre multis and multiphase commercial, business and planned area development project on the north side of Florence Boulevard (Highway 287) at Toltec Buttes Road.

The full request for proposals is posted on the city of Casa Grande website. 

The city is involved because the project land is within the city's Post Ranch Community Facilities District. Examples of construction in CFDs are Villago and Mission Royale.

The latest announcement also says, "The city of Casa Grande and the Post Ranch Community Facilities District may participate financially in portions of the project. The water portion of the construction will be not eligible for CFD funding and must be accounted for separately."

Modeled after similar ones in China and Dubai, PhoenixMart is advertised as a servicing center that allows companies to showcase their products and services to international markets. Proposed uses, the announcement said, will include various business, retail, hotel, office and employment.

"The project includes public and private improvements of infrastructure to support the development generally located between LeBrea Street and Evans on the east and west and Cottonwood Lane and Florence Boulevard on the north and south," the announcement said. "The infrastructure will generally support phase one of the project to include a 1,550,000-square-foot building; however, some infrastructure will be constructed now to support future phases. The estimated project budget is $17,000,000."

The announcement said the work includes:

• Road improvements

Construction of approximately four miles of public roadways, including paving, curb and gutter and drainage structures located within the first phase of the approximately 585 acres. Improvements will include street lighting and improvements to SR287.

• Water improvements

Construction of private domestic water supply located within the newly dedicated public right‐of‐way within the first phase of the 585‐acres, along with improvements to connect to existing facilities located on Mission Parkway north of Florence Boulevard. Routing will be north on Mission Parkway, then east on Cottonwood Lane to the 585‐acre development.

• Sewer improvements

Construction of public sanitary sewer supply within the newly dedicated public right‐of‐way of the first phase.

• Landscape improvements

Construction of landscape, hardscape and irrigation in the first phase.

• Grading and drainage

Providing grading and drainage facilities, including temporary and permanent retention basins to capture right‐of‐way drainage in the first phase.

• Coordination

Coordinate with existing Southwest Gas, ED2 Electric District and Hohokam irrigation services.

Proposals from qualified contractors must be received by the city by Feb. 6.


State grant will help CG keep selenium
discharges at sewage plant within limits

(Posted Jan. 13, 2014)



The staff report is HERE


The Arizona Water Co. levels report is HERE


The federal EPA fact sheet on selenium in drinking water is HERE


You could say the city is between a rock and a wet place when it comes to cleaning selenium levels in the treated wastewater discharged from the sewage treatment plant.

To work toward the goal of not having discharge levals above federal and state law, Casa Grande has received a $18,850 grant from the Water Infrastructure Authority of Arizona to help cover the cost of a professional engineering study.

As Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out to the City Council while explaining the problem and need for a solution, "selenium levels are a natural occurring constituent in our water here in Arizona. As a matter of fact, with Arizona Water Co. the levels that they're allowed to develop for drinking water are much higher than our discharge levels. They're allowed 10 times as much selenium in their water they deliver versus what we're able to discharge, so we're already at a disadvantage when we have a treatment system that was never really designed for that."

The federal EPA sets the selenium level in drinking water at no more than 50 parts per billion, which the latest Arizona Water Co. report says the company is meeting.

"Arizona Water is a totally different standard when it comes to the Clean Water Drinking Act," Louis said. "This is the Clean Water Act as well, but it's the industrial discharge that we're dealing with. It's different ways of looking at water and how it impacts the environment. The Clean Water Drinking Act deals with human consumption, we're dealing with what we're discharging into the environment, to make sure we're not hurting fish, flowers, plants, those types of things."

When Casa Grande's plant was expanded and able to discharge A+ treated water to recharge into the groundwater tables, the limits for the plant became more strict, Louis said.

"We've been dealing with high selenium levels in our effluent for several years now," he continued. "We've typically been able to keep those below our discharge limits, but we have had three exceedances."

That brought notice from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, described as a routine action when the limits are exceeded, but not a formal demand for immediate solving of the problem.

"We are working with ADEQ," Louis said. "They are giving us a lot of latitude on how to address this, but we do have to address it. They don't have an answer for us. The answers that we've been able to find we had to go out and find ourselves, even though they probably had those answers before we started asking. So it's just one of those challenges we're going to have to deal with. We've been working with them for two years on this issue and other issues  and this one just hit that limit, so that we find ourselves in this place right now.

"This would be treated totally differently (by ADEQ) if we were doing something that caused this intentionally. We are not. This is just something that has occurred and now we're going through the process of identifying a way to modify our treatment process and our testing methods to hopefully come into compliance."

Louis said discussions with the water infrastructure group brought word that some grants were available "and said if we looked at this issue with the idea that we could maybe solve our issue and help other communities, as well, that they would be willing to consider us as a grantee."

The $18.850 study grant requires another $12,600 from the city in staff time and other services.

"We'll be looking at the different areas that could be impacting our system in trying to work on solutions, as well as looking at other testing methods that can give us a little more accurate reading," Louis said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked if the study would be completed before there might be another selenium exceedance.

"I can never really tell you when we might exceed a limit," Louis responded. "Of course, we hope we hope we have a process in place that takes that off the option table."

Fitzgibbons also asked if the study might lead to a major expense for the city for changes at the sewage plant.

"It's hard to anticipate right now until we get there," Louis answered. "We've been able to modify our processes in our  plant to buffer those limits … hopefully offset any of those exceedance possibilities.

"That's a short term solution, now we're looking for top long term solution. We want to make sure we have a process in place that guarantees that we can provide that quality of the water in our discharge."

The staff report accompanying the agenda item noted that, "City staff has performed initial analyses of the cause of these exceedances and has identified and implemented an alternative testing method which provides more reliable and accurate results for analysis of selenium levels. While use of this testing method will reduce the likelihood of a reportable exceedance, it does not provide a means of removal of excessive selenium from the effluent. A means of enhanced removal needs to be identified and implemented to ensure compliance can be achieved."

Mayor Bob Jackson pointed out that the long term solution might be an additional three months after the study or much longer. A number of things might have to be done, none of them cheap, he said.

"I have found that nothing with wastewater or anything is cheap," Louis responded.


New landscaping rules may solve problem
of trees dying in Mission Royale subdivision

(Posted Jan. 9, 2014)


You'll find the staff report, which includes the revised planting types list, HERE


The plan apparently was to create streets in Mission Royale that had trees with canopies gracefully arching over the pavement. They would be in planting strips in front of homes, the maintenance up to homeowners.

It hasn't worked out that way.

The issue before the Planning and Zoning Commission during its Jan. 2 meeting was a request to revise the list of plants and trees required under the planned area development standards for the active adult part of the subdivision north of Earley Road.

Because of several factors, including vacant homes, about 230 trees have died, including 130 in the last year alone, the commission was told before it approved a revised plantings list that includes hardier types.

"I believe the intent of requiring trees within these planting strips was to promote tree lined, canopy-laden streetscape," city planner Jim Gagliardi told the commission. "But where that works well for parkways and wider streets which exist within the Mission Royale development, on local streets that are quite a bit narrower, not to mention the fact that these planting strips abut yards that have trees of their own, that idea of having a canopy-laden street doesn't quite work in this scenario. 

"What I mean by planting strip area is it's that area of the right of way between the curb and the sidewalk. Throughout this community it ranges from three and a half feet wide to five feet wide.

"The issue is that due to the narrowness of the planting strips, a lot of the trees have had a watering situation as well as the oversized canopies tend to drop over the street and to drop over the adjacent residential properties where there are other trees. There is potential concerns for damage to the curb and sidewalk as these trees mature."

Gagliardi said that in the short term, lysiloma trees have been planted in some area but that doesn't appear to have been the most appropriate landscaping.

Gagliardi said the planning staff recommended changing the planting requirements list to  "remove some of the trees that have shown aren't performing well in the area due to water concerns and updating it to not only provide more drought-tolerant plants but plant material that are seen in other area of the Mission Royale community and have been approved on other landscaped plans for streetscapes along Hacienda and Earley and throughout their open spaces."

Hugh Renard of the homeowners' association, told the commission that the problem with dying trees has been going on since the subdivision began 10 years ago.

"And we've lost about 230 trees," he said. "In the last year alone, we lost 130 and the expenses are mounting as the years go by. The winds will whip them, break them off. Freezing in the winter time is killing them out. And lack of watering in some locations where they're really small."

Other problems, Renard said, are that in the smaller planting strips, the surviving trees "are cracking the curbs and the sidewalks and the city's absorbing the expense to repair that, so that's something for you to consider, as well.

"In the space between the street and the house, you've got 20 feet to the sidewalk and then another five or six feet out to the center line of that planting area. We're required to put a tree in our front yard and the city requirement requires a tree in that streetscape," he continued.

"If you put the tree away from the house far enough enough so that it's not damaging the house -- that's standard 13 feet away from the house -- it puts the two trees within 13 to 16 feet of each other, and the two conflict. You've got to trim one or the other so that one of them will continue to grow properly and not damage the other one. And that's an expense to the homeowner, too.

"We're concerned about the continual expense to us, the various trees that we can use are getting smaller and smaller as to which ones we can use and which ones we can't. And we're going to be fighting this for a long time if we don't get this approved."

Commission member Mike Henderson asked if all trees would be replaced.

"We don't plan to remove any of them, unless they're trees that the city has to remove because it's damaging the street or the sidewalk," Renard replied. "We will leave those there.

"We've got quite a few trees that received considerable damage in last year's frost (freeze) that have been trimmed and strapped up so that they regrow a new center stalk, and they look horrible. But that's what we've done to try to keep our costs down and let those eventually take off. "

Another problem, Renard said, is that before new trees reach ideal height "they block the sidewalk for people walking on the sidewalk. They have to get up high enough that you can create a canopy for people to walk under. What you're find is people are walking in the street to avoid all of them. If we take all these trees out and new ones in you're going to have more people walking in the street."

The commission approval of a revised plantings list was unanimous, with Brett Benedict absent.


Casa Grande Police Department joining
state's Child Abduction Response Team

(Posted Jan. 6, 2014)


The staff report is HERE


The interagency agreement is HERE


The Casa Grande Police Department will become part of the Arizona Child Abduction Response Team, joining several other law enforcement agencies.

Unanimous approval by the City Council came Monday night during its regular meeting.

According to the agenda item staff report, "Several law enforcement agencies in the Phoenix area and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office have entered into agreement to assist each other in cases where a child is missing and circumstances of the incident give cause to believe the child may have been abducted. This coordinated response of specially trained officers from several agencies gives the requesting agency greater ability to bring such cases to a successful conclusion.

"Our department would assign one or two investigators to the CART team who would respond with the team on an as-available basis.

"In the event Casa Grande should experience such an incident, this agreement would allow us to request a CART response and provide us the needed resources to properly handle such an incident."

Specialized training for the team is provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Casa Grande would cover its police staff costs for about 40 hours of initial training and for time on responses, typically six to 12 hours, the staff report says.

The resolution was on the consent agenda, items passed on one vote without discussion, but Councilman Matt Herman asked that it be pulled so that he and others could comment.

"It's really helpful for our city," Herman said. "What it has to do with is when you have a child abduction in your area. Child abduction doesn't happen a lot here and we hope that it doesn't, but this means we will be ready. Instead of having someone full time just to dedicate to child abduction, there will be a whole team trained by the FBI if we may get that call."

Police Chief Johnny Cervantes told the council that, "We haven't had to use it yet. We've seen them operate for another issue outside our county and they used our Police Department for a command post, so we actually got to see them work and it is a pretty phenomenal. It is going to help us. Hopefully it never happens, but if it does happen we're going to be ready to respond."

As Councilman Dick Powell sees it, "I don't think there's anything more frightening than a missing or an abducted child. And research indicates probably that the sooner that you can find that child, the better success. The first four to eight hours is very, very critical.

"I know the amber alerts helped a lot, but I think it's a big asset for our community to be involved in an intelligent, trained, organized response if that should happen, or if we can help somebody else that needs help with it."


 Pieces falling into place for major
 Regional Gateway Commerce Center,
 future Henness Road/I-8 interchange

(Posted Jan. 5, 2014)


You'll find the commerce center staff report HERE


You'll find the CG Mountain Ranch staff report HERE


It's far from a done deal, but pieces are falling into place for what the developer envisions as a major commerce center along Interstate 10 from I-8 north to Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

As outlined to the Planning and Zoning Commission during Thursday night's meeting, the Regional Gateway Commerce Center would be on 525 acres as part of a planned area development designation replacing the present urban ranch and light industrial zoning. 

"The planned area development zoning district will allow various land uses to support and enhance the economic development potentials of the site, as described within the city’s General Plan," the staff report for the agenda item says. 

"In the Commerce and Business land use category, corporate office oriented campuses, business parks, light industrial that occurs within buildings, and mixed commercial are ideal land uses along the junction of interstates 8 and 10. The site serves as an economic gateway to the city.

"The proposed Regional Gateway Commerce Center will compliment and support the Casa Grande Mountain Ranch PAD, a planned residential community located immediately to the south of this project site. When combined, these projects will be the 'Center Point of the Southwest,' providing a unique community environment for live, work, and play.”

Casa Grande Mountain Ranch was also on Thursday's agenda for changes in land configuration to allow for a future interchange at I-8 and Henness Road.

The commission sent favorable recommendations on both requests to the City Council.

Jack Gilmore, a planning and landscape architect representing developer George Chasse, told the commission that both men believe the gateway center, combined with Casa Grande Mountain Ranch and its residential and other areas south of I-8, are extremely significant to the city.

"I have to emphasize how important we believe this location in the city of Casa Grande," Gilmore said. "We envision this as a wonderful gateway project for the city and the chance to generate corporate office users. Our vision is attract more national corporate developers.

"If you've been on the north side of Phoenix where the USAA corporate office is for the insurance, the corporate headquarters, that's kind of project we envision for this location."

Site selectors travel around the United States looking for such freeway interchange locations, Gilmore said, noting that there are only five in Arizona, not counting the freeway loops around the Phoenix metro area.

"So when you think about Tucson, San Diego and the city of Phoenix," he continued, "we think this is a very strategic location, so we anticipate there will be users as the market continues to evolve looking for this kind of location that'll have exposure on the freeway that will carry up to 100,000 cars a day in year 2020.

"Again, we see this as a chance to market both projects as the center point of the Southwest and Mr. Chasse is aggressively right now marketing national developers to the benefits of this location. We're getting everything lined up and we're just get this PAD on the books so we can promote this across the country."

The question from commission member Mike Henderson was, when will something get started on the commerce center.

"It's a point in time condition," Gilmore responded. "We believe as the market continues to evolve and having been doing this for several decades here in the Valley and doing projects down near Casa Grande I believe the market is going to follow the I-10 corridor and we're starting to see that already. Now we have the PhoenixMart and I think that's going to continue to develop interest on this I-10 corridor and I think when the PhoenixMart starts their renovation of the old Tanger outlets that's going to start to draw attention to that location, especially when they break ground.

"I think as interest comes to our property, what triggers the development will be the size and scale of that development, because the first phases, as in all cases of projects like this, are typically the most expensive.

"We have to develop a threshold to justify the investment, have something like this PAD on the books so that we can present that to these users, give the staff and the city the comfort level that we've thought out appropriate infrastructure requirements and access. I believe the PAD will do this and give the staff and the city the confidence that it will be a quality development with the appropriate services.

"The timing is another crystal ball kind of question. I wish I had a better answer for you, but again, we want to be prepared when those users come forward. And we've been talking with the Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation and others like that to say this site is going to be available in the near future, put this in your realm to make an introduction so those users like USAA that need this kind of a system interchange location with this kind of exposure know there's a site in Casa Grande with a great housing project to the south side."

"We're seeing the right things begin to line up to attract futurists at this location."

Gilmore said that the proposed Interstate 11 from Nevada, still far in the future, would come along present Val Vista Boulevard, joining I-10 as part of the international CANAMEX Corridor linking Canada, the United States and Mexico for trade. "We see this as another asset to promote the use and interest in this location," he said. 

Henderson also pointed out that AZ Sourcing, the parent of PhoenixMart, also has announced plans for major renovation of the old Tanger outlets center and the building of a commerce center on the property immediately to the west, both located north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard. That commerce center has been stalled by disagreements between AZ Sourcing and the city over the height of buildings and other concerns. (See following item for earlier story about what was proposed and why the city has qualms.)

"Is there anything we need to know or be concerned about in tying these things together and all pulling the same way?" Henderson asked.

Planning and Development Director Paul Tice responded that the outlets center work will be known as Station One and the 34-acre commercial development to the west as Station Two.

"Station Two is proposed to be a fairly dense urban/commercial type of development, some mixed use," Tice said. "And certainly that, with the development of this (Regional Gateway Commerce Center) site would sort of create a significant commercial center in this part of town.

"They compliment each other, I think, from a land use perspective. However, the transportation system is not very good, the connectivity between the two sites in terms of transportation connectivity, because of the barrier provided by the railroad that parallels Jimmie Kerr. The only way we're going to get land use transportation connectivity is with some kind of a new crossing over the railroad tracks. It's going to be a challenge."

The Casa Grande Mountain Ranch agenda item keyed mostly on shuffling land boundaries around to dedicate space for the future interchange when Henness Road is pushed to the south. That will be a major factor in the future, Gilmore said, adding that, "the Arizona Department of Transportation recognized the importance of this interchange but the timing is not definite. It's a hundred-million-dollar project.

"George Chasse has been working for the past three and a half years to process a change of access report for that Henness Road interchange with I-8," he continued. "And as a result of that effort  we have discovered that we need to provide the right of way for that interchange and in doing additional analysis we came up with this new boundary."

Henderson said he had read that such an interchange would be paid for by the developer.

That is true and that is the intent, Gilmore responded

"ADOT has approved this location for the interchange and they have designated this as a developer-paid interchange," he said. "In other words, ADOT didn't commit to pay for this interchange itself. If the developer wants to do it, they would support this location, so that was the basis for the change of access report."

As it progresses toward reality, Gilmore said, perhaps the city and some major corporate tenants could contribute to covering the costs of the interchange, which would support both the Regional Gateway Commerce Center north of I-8 and the Casa Grande Mountain Ranch project south of the freeway.

Earlier story about proposal west of old outlets center

(The proposal has twice been delayed at the request of the developer. No new date has been announced)


(Posted July 26, 2013)


A request for major changes in a commercial area behind the outlets center at Interstate 10 and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, including a 110-foot-high hotel and a 165-foot high apartment building, is the main item on the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission’s agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting.

The city Planning and Development Department has recommended denial. If the commission decides to approve the application anyway, the department asks for several changes to scale down and soften the look of the area, which would be known as Station II.

The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.

The application is an amendment to an earlier approved planned area development for the site, north of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard.

“This PAD amendment seeks to change the land uses to major commercial residential/retail, senior care facility uses, commercial, business and service uses, indoor and outdoor recreation and proposes urban designed buildings and form, such as a 110-foot-high hotel building, a 165-foot high rise apartment building, six-level parking garage, four-story anchor store, single store retail with office above and building heights up to 75 feet,” the staff report says.

“To help put the building heights proposed within the Station II development into perspective, the tallest building that exists today in Casa Grande is the Abbott Labs cooling tower building which is approximately 200 feet in height. The Francisco Grande hotel is approximately 90 feet.”

The staff report notes that the area is slowly transforming from rural to suburban and will eventually become a major southern gateway to the city and downtown area.

“As such, staff does not have an objection to the creation of a commercial development at the Station II site,” the report says. “Staff simply believes that the building heights and perimeter building setbacks proposed in the Station II PAD take too drastic of a step in this direction and that a design that has a more gradual transition would be appropriate.

“Accordingly, in order for the proposal to meet the PAD criteria in regards to building heights and setbacks, staff has suggested a gradual transition of building heights and increased perimeter setbacks.”

Those recommendations, most involving a conditional use permit, are in the chart above.

“Staff recommends the commission recommend to City Council that the major amendment be denied due to the following requirements not being met:

• “The proposal does not meet the "Spatial Form and Design" of the General Plan 2020 Commerce and Business Land Use Category.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code section 17.40.020.1 (PAD Architecture) in that the proposed building heights are not compatible with the surrounding developments.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020.N. (PAD requirements) in regards to perimeter building setbacks.

• “The proposal does not meet City Code Section 17.40.020S.a.i. that the building(s) or shopping center shall be located at the intersection of two arterial roadways or have frontage on an arterial roadway and be immediately adjacent to an interstate highway.”

The report says that if the Planning Commission were to forward a favorable recommendation to City Council regarding the Station II PAD, staff would suggest conditions of approval including those in the above chart.



    2013 City Report includes spending, other highlights;
    53 percent of the budget was to provide public safety
                   -- download full report

     Chart shows the fiscal year 2013 rates, the increases for FY 2014 and the proposed 25      percent discount.

Nonprofit tournament field rental
rates will remain at previous levels 

(Posted Dec. 17, 2013)


You'll find the agenda package at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The meeting is online at 

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/citymanager/pio/channel11/


The meeting will also be on cable channel 11. The schedule is at 

http://www.casagrandeaz.gov/files/2013/04/MonthlyPlayoutSchedules4.pdf



The rates that Casa Grande charges nonprofit sports groups to use city fields for tournaments will remain at 2013 fiscal year previous levels, the City Council decided Monday night after more than an hour of discussion.

The city defines nonprofit as groups recognized as such by the Arizona Corporation Commission or the federal Internal Revenue Service.

There will be no concession fee for the first tournament of the season. After that, the fee will be $12 an hour,

When the city fees schedule for this fiscal year came out, several nonprofit groups complained, contending that the new costs were too high, perhaps forcing them to take their tournaments elsewhere. Under discussion Monday night was a resolution cutting fees to nonprofits by 25 percent. That evolved into keeping the fees at the last fiscal year levels.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, the estimated sports complex facility rental revenue for this fiscal year is $50,000, of which 15 percent would be from tournaments.

Rates chart for other cities is HERE.


In other action Monday night, the council:

• Approved spending $31,887 for a greens mower for the golf course.

• Approved spending $264,569 for a garbage collection truck, replacing one with 178,999 miles on it.



Ah, that sugar rush!
City seeking vending machines contractor

(Posted Dec. 12, 2013)


An army, they say, travels on its stomach. From watching the incessant, loud commercials on television you'd think the rest of us travel on sugary soft drinks and junk food.

Ah, that sugar rush!

Should government be any different?

Casa Grande is asking for proposals to provide vending machine services at 10 locations -- although along with a warning that at least some of the items must be "healthy alternatives such as baked chips, gr